A's notes: Football makes appearance, Anderson progressing

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A's notes: Football makes appearance, Anderson progressing

OAKLAND -- The A's may have a magic number of four to clinch a playoff spot, but a much more interesting number might be 90. If the team wins on Saturday it will be their 90th of the season. It is safe to say nobody in their right mind saw that coming at the start of the season. The A's haven't won 90 games since 2006 when they tallied 93 victories.-- Injured starting pitcher Brett Anderson continues to improve as he tries to accelerate the recovery from his strained right oblique. He was in the outfield playing catch again on Saturday. He threw from 120 feet. The team remains optimistic that he could be ready for the postseason. "After that we could get him on a mound," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I would say Monday at the earliest if everything goes well today." Melvin stressed the team is trying to keep it's options open with Anderson but can't afford to rush him back. Once he gets on the mound and throws some pitches the A's will be able to get a better gauge on how ready he is. -- Melvin says he isn't going to shuffle the rotation for the remaining games of the season. Things could get interesting if there is a one-game playoff. Straily would be on turn to start that game. Here's the rotation as it shakes out the rest of the way.A's Rotation: Dan Straily (2-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (14-11, 3.94 ERA)
Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA) vs. Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 3.42 ERA)
Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.44 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (1-3, 5.03 ERA)
Travis Blackley (5-4, 3.91 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (18-10, 3.26 ERA)
A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (7-3, 4.64 ERA)
How the remaining starts go for each pitcher could determine who makes a potential playoff rotation. The A's would have the luxury of going to a four-man rotation should they make it to divisional play. -- Coco Crisp is in the lineup playing a day game after a night game. It can be very difficult to see baseballs in the Oakland Coliseum during the day. If Crisp can survive a full game out there in the outfield while battling the sun, he is clearly a safe start for the long haul after suffering from allergic conjunctivitis in both of his eyes. He had only appeared as a pinch runner in two of the previous nine games before returning on Friday night and going 3 for 5 with a home run and three runs. -- The A's were throwing around a football before the game. Daric Barton brought the ball down to the field from the clubhouse. They played catch and made some mock interceptions and runbacks. At one point the ball was thrown to Yoenis Cespedes. He struggled to catch the ball. When he tried to chuck it back it went wobbling through the air. He laughed and joked that his shoulder was hurt by the ball. It looked like the first time he's ever picked up the pigskin. Many have remarked that Cespedes' speed and muscular build would make him a killer linebacker. As long as he isn't trying to catch or throw the ball he might make a pretty good football player. Like Bo, Yo knows.Cespedes has been a fast learner since joining the A's. He is making constant adjustments at the plate, is learning a new language, and a new outfield position. The full-extension diving catch he made in left field last night is proof that he is a remarkable athlete. "I think it goes right along with the way he has evolved as a player here since the first day in Spring Training," Melvin said. "He's picked things up very quickly, and once he feels comfortable he is just on to the next thing."The A's are hoping to make a deep postseason run. Maybe once he is done he can don the silver and black. Melvin even joked that Cespedes might get some looks at shortstop next year. -- Playing football is just another example of how loose the A's can be. As Jonny Gomes has remarked on many occasions, the team is playing for fun, not for contracts. That has worked for them all season. "We're trying to keep it as loose as we can," Melvin said. "It's starting to get a little much but we are trying to play today's game and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." -- Stephen Drew is on an eight-game hitting streak. He is hitting .429 (15 for 35) over that span. Since joining the A's 16 games ago he is batting .271 with five home runs and 16 RBI. The team has a mutual option on his contract for next season. The day they acquired him via trade from the Diamondbacks, assistant general manager David Forst said they wanted to see how he played before considering bringing him back. Drew might be making a strong case to return. "We'd love to have him back," Melvin said of Drew. Drew's 2013 option is worth 10 million with a buyout of 1.35 M. The A's should be able to afford him easily if the front office agrees with Melvin's sentiments.

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.

Instant Replay: Graveman's strong start not enough, Angels finish sweep of A's

Instant Replay: Graveman's strong start not enough, Angels finish sweep of A's

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM – If the A’s were searching for inspiration, they got some from their starting pitcher Thursday.

In his first start back from the disabled list, Kendall Graveman turned in a gutsy six innings that included a highlight-reel unassisted double play that solicited a visit from the training staff to make sure he was OK.

But the A’s offense couldn’t make Graveman’s night complete. Oakland scraped together just three hits in a 2-1 loss that completed a three-game sweep for the Los Angeles Angels.

It was the A’s second 2-1 defeat of the series, and the third time during their current four-game losing streak that they’ve been held to one run.

The Angels scored twice off Graveman in the first on a two-out rally that included Mike Trout’s double, Albert Pujols’ RBI single off the right field wall and C.J. Cron’s double to the warning track that Jaff Decker couldn’t haul in.

That was all that was needed to make a winner of Ricky Nolasco (2-2), who went 5 2/3 innings and avenged an Opening Night loss at the Coliseum on April 3.

Starting pitching report

Graveman (2-1) gave up the two runs in the first inning, then buckled down and allowed the Angels no more in his first start since April 14, when he was lost to a strained right shoulder. He went six innings, allowed six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk anyone. It was a good sign that Graveman’s fastball consistently registered in the mid-90’s. And though he appeared shaken up after his acrobatic double play, he retired his final seven hitters, including back-to-back called strikeouts of Trout and Pujols in the sixth to finish his night.

Bullpen report

Ryan Madson and Daniel Coulombe threw scoreless innings to keep the game close.

At the plate

Besides Yonder Alonso, who drove in three runs Wednesday and had a bloop single for an RBI on Thursday, it’s hard to know who the A’s can turn to right now for an offensive spark. Leadoff hitter Jaff Decker, filling in for the injured Rajai Davis, went 2-for-11 in the series and isn’t making an impact at the plate or in the field. Cleanup man Khris Davis went 1-for-9 in the series and Ryon Healy went 1-for-14, including chasing a high fastball for a strikeout with the bases loaded in the sixth.

In the field

Graveman turned in the first unassisted double play by an A’s pitcher since Blue Moon Odom did it July 11, 1971 against the then-California Angels. He had runners on the corners with no outs when Juan Graterol hit a comebacker to the mound. Graveman caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. He made a sprinting tag of Revere near the third base bag just as Cliff Pennington was trying to advance from first all the way to third on the play. Graveman tagged Revere, then leapt over Revere and tagged Pennington out as he tumbled to the ground. It was unclear what bothered Graveman after the play. But after a visit from trainers, he stayed in the game and pitched well.

Attendance

Tonight's reported attendance in Anaheim was 37,603.

Up next

The A’s continue this nine-game road trip against the first-place Astros. Friday — Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) vs. Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.29), 5:10 p.m. Saturday — Andrew Triggs (3-1, 2.43) vs. Joe Musgrove (1-1, 5.91), 4:10 p.m. Sunday — Jesse Hahn (1-1, 2.08) vs. lefty Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.22), 11:10 a.m. All three games air on NBC Sports California.