Rangers notes: A’s close, but not taking division title for granted

Posted Sunday, Sep. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Champagne bottles were nowhere in sight, and the Oakland Athletics insist those thoughts haven’t crossed their minds… yet.

A three-game sweep over the Texas Rangers, though, certainly put them in the driver’s seat to win their second straight American League West title. They extended their division lead from 3 1/2 games to 6 1/2 games with 13 left, and the Rangers have 14 games remaining to make up that ground.

Of course, it would take the A’s having a similar collapse as the Rangers did last September to see it slip away from their grip.

“Obviously the standings say we’re close, but our mentality can’t be that way, because it’s not just about winning the division for us,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “We have other goals to accomplish as well.

“We’re on the right track, but it’s not time to start getting comfortable. It’s a time to continue to keep improving in areas which we can and continue to play the best baseball we can.”

Oakland manager Bob Melvin also isn’t taking anything for granted. He knows the streakiness of baseball, and reminded reporters that the A’s overcame a five-game deficit with nine to play last year.

Last year, however, the A’s and Rangers had head-to-head matches that gave them a chance to close the gap.

“Well, I don’t look at it that way,” Melvin said. “You don’t count anybody out until they’re out.”

Extended rest

Ron Washington wanted to get closer Joe Nathan in Sunday’s game, but didn’t. Nathan has now gone more than a week since pitching after throwing a perfect inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 8.

Nathan has pitched only twice this month after averaging about 11 outings per month the first five months. There haven’t been many opportunities, though, as the Rangers never led on their recent six-game homestand and have gone 2-11 this month.

“You hope to get out there on a consistent basis, but sometimes things happen and you’re not going to,” Nathan said. “We’ll see the next time I get out there.”

Moreland gets break

Nobody has struggled more of late than Mitch Moreland. The first baseman is 0 for his last 21 with 14 strikeouts, and is in the midst of a career-long nine-game hitless streak.

Moreland got a much-needed day off Sunday, with Jim Adduci getting the start at first base.

“You’re going to have your ups and downs,” Moreland said after Saturday’s game, when he went 0 for 3 with a walk and three strikeouts.

“People go through their slumps. That’s part of it. I’m going to keep working, have fun and make the most of it.”

Ron Washington said Moreland has struggled with off-speed pitches, adding: “It looks like he’s trying too hard.”

Adduci had three hits Sunday, and Washington said he expects to start him again, although the position is to be determined.

Limiting steals

A.J. Pierzynski never worried too much about his caught stealing percentages with the Chicago White Sox. The organization didn’t put too much emphasis on it, unlike the Rangers.

Pierzynski has made a concerted effort to throw out attempted base stealers more often by working on his mechanics with minor league catching instructor Hector Ortiz, and the results are paying off.

Pierzynski has thrown out 16 of the last 37 attempted base stealers after beginning the season by throwing out only 1 of his first 25.

“It’s been a team effort, everyone from the pitchers to catchers to coaches,” Pierzynski said. “I came from a team where it wasn’t one of their big points of emphasis, so it’s nice to come over here and work on it.”

Briefly

• Tuesday’s starter remains to be determined. Nick Tepesch, Travis Blackley, Alexi Ogando and Ross Wolf are among the candidates to make the start. Said Tepesch: “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. Just take the ball and do the best I can.”

• Lance Berkman was in the original lineup as the designated hitter, but was taken out when the A’s switched starters and left-hander Tommy Milone made the emergency start. Jeff Baker started as the DH instead. Berkman is expected to start Monday against Rays right-hander Alex Cobb.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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