Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Amazing A's: Can this last?

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 - 12:09 am

OAKLAND – The late-inning dramatics Monday took place in that spectacular ballpark across the bay. Here in the creaky stadium without all the bells and whistles, and without nearly as many fans, the Los Angeles Angels finally ended the A's improbable win streak.

So it stops at nine. Nine consecutive victories. Nine straight days and nights of blissful chatter inside the clubhouse, and almost everywhere else within baseball, of course, of nagging head shakes and lingering questions.

Who are these guys? What are they doing? How can this be happening?

Those are still all good questions. In spite of Monday's streak-busting 8-3 loss, the A's continue to hold a slim lead in the American League wild-card race and, not to be overlooked, have a better record than an Angels roster of big-money players.

"Nobody expected us to run the table," reminded A's third baseman Josh Donaldson, "(but) we really wanted to beat these guys."

C.J. Wilson, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter. Those guys. In the opener of this crucial three-game series, that list also includes Vernon Wells and Chris Iannetta, the latter delivering a momentum-crushing two-run homer in the sixth inning.

The afternoon's few highlights and lighthearted moments, in fact, involved former River Cats Donaldson and Chris Carter. Besides hitting solo home runs, the infielders converged near the mound on a popup by Pujols, then collided almost comically because neither called for the ball.

Donaldson, a 221-pound former catcher, caught the brunt of the meeting. He lost his footing when the two bodies bumped and could only watch as the burly 6-foot-4, 244-pound Carter stretched and made the catch.

"I told BoMel (Bob Melvin) I felt like I was a receiver going across the middle and getting hit by Ray Lewis," Donaldson wisecracked afterward. "He's a big dude. I'm just glad everything is OK."

Carter, who overheard the conversation from his locker two stalls away, looked up and grinned. It turns out that the two ex-Cats share more than extensive experiences in the minor leagues. They also happen to be two of the A's hottest hitters, and they happen to be using the same bats.

In another example of how the tiny-budget A's and the large-market Angels differ – one really can't imagine, say, Pujols and Hunter doing this – Donaldson has been borrowing Carter's bats since being recalled from Sacramento on Aug. 14.

"I didn't have any bats when I came back," Donaldson explained. "I picked up one of his and asked if I could use it. I started to hit the ball pretty well. Obviously, I like the bat."

Whatever works. Donaldson hasn't hit like this since his college days at Auburn. In 19 games, he is averaging .338, with seven doubles, 15 RBIs and five home runs, with four coming in his last five games. The miscommunication with Carter notwithstanding, Donaldson also has been smooth and agile at third base, more than once showing off his powerful arm.

"The ability is certainly there, and I think the confidence is," said Melvin. "He's rolling, swinging well, and we're getting a lot of production out of him down toward the bottom of the order."

With Brandon Inge sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury, Donaldson's contributions are particularly timely. Then again, the questions keep recurring. Can he keep this up? Can he help the A's continue capitalizing on spectacular pitching and occasional power and overcome their obvious hitting deficiencies? Can this all possibly last?

Donaldson, the club's starting third baseman on Opening Day, isn't the one asking the hard questions. He is simply trying to avoid thinking too hard and obsessing about hitting home runs on every at-bat.

When one of the local beat writers asked why he had never mentioned borrowing his longtime teammate's bat – a slightly heavier model at 34 1/2 inches and 32 1/2 ounces – Donaldson laughed.

"I didn't want to get his head too big," he said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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