OAKLAND — Yoenis Cespedes is not in the starting lineup tonight as the A’s get their first look this season at Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Cespedes has been bothered off-and-on by a bruised right heel, and manager Bob Melvin said he felt he was "best-served to give (Cespedes) a day." The heel bothers Cespedes when running, but Melvin said Cespedes is a potential option off the bench tonight.
That leaves the A’s with only one right-handed hitter (Josh Donaldson) in the lineup -- one reason Melvin decided to bump John Jaso up to the No. 2 spot tonight, ahead of Jed Lowrie and Donaldson. There’s also the fact Jaso has some good career numbers against Darvish: He’s 4-for-13 with two home runs and two walks.
In fact, no team has had the success against Darvish that the A’s have since the Japanese right-hander entered the league. Darvish is 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA in seven starts against the A’s, including 0-4 last season with a 4.13 ERA. Part of the reason: The Rangers have scored two runs or less in five of his six losses to the A’s.
Asked what’s behind the success against Darvish, Melvin said: "That’s a good question. We do have a way about making pitchers work, sometimes throw a lot of pitches, get a few guys on and then maybe we get a good pitch to hit. Other times we’ve stayed with him a little bit, gotten him out of the game and done a little better off the bullpen.
"But really no recipe. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and his numbers would indicate that. We’ve just been lucky enough to do fairly well."
Darvish in three starts this season has allowed two runs in 22 innings for a 0.82 ERA, while striking out 23 hitters and walking four. So if the A’s do get to him tonight, they’ll be the first team on the year to do so. Here’s the lineup they’ll send out against him:
And the Rangers’ lineup against A’s right-hander Dan Straily:
• The A’s had their infielders stretch early with the pitchers today so they could do some defensive work before batting practice. The A’s are tied with the most errors in the majors with 20 and have committed two in each of their last four games. The odd thing is many have come on more routine plays (such as the grounder that Donaldson bobbled on a transfer Sunday), while the infield in particular has made some sterling plays as well (such as two sharp backhand plays by a pulled-in Donaldson in that same game).
Melvin said the defensive struggles may be as much mental as anything. "Kind of like any hitter that’s in a slump, we just need to get a few games back to back together, put it aside, so we’re not hearing about it all the time and I’m not addressing it," he said. Still, he said the pre-game defensive drills will probably be a regular occurrence.
• The Rangers are without slugging third baseman Adrian Beltre right now, but still have the highest average in the American League (.272) and fourth-highest OPS (.744). That’s thanks in part to Kevin Kouzmanoff, who has filled in for Beltre and today was selected the A.L. Player of the Week for last week, when he batted .345 with two homers, four doubles and eight RBIs.
Rangers manager Ron Washington before the game called Kouzmanoff, who played for the A’s in 2010 and 2011, a "godsend. … I don’t know where we’d be without him."
• Washington was also asked about facing the A’s for the first time this season, and said he believes the series will be an early barometer for his team.
"This is the team you judge yourselves by," Washington said of the A’s. "Right now they’re the leaders.
"It’s certainly not going to make or break our season if it doesn’t go our way. … But excitement is in the air."
• The A’s announced today they claimed infielder Andy Parrino off waivers from the Rangers and sent him to Triple-A Sacramento. Parrino, who played much of last season with the River Cats, was designated for assignment by Texas on Friday. Melvin said the move -- which brings back memories of Adam Rosales last year -- made sense because the A’s had a 40-man roster spot open after designating Sam Fuld and are familiar with Parrino.
• Infielder Jake Elmore (DL - strained left quad) was taking ground balls with the A’s in pre-game and could begin a rehab assignment "pretty quick," Melvin said.