San Francisco Giants

Angels series to exercise A’s right-handed lineup

OAKLAND -- The A's are in the unusual situation of facing three straight left-handed starters in their final home series against the Los Angeles Angels. They get C.J. Wilson in tonight's opener, Wade LeBlanc tomorrow and Hector Santiago on Wednesday.

The A's, of course, structure their lineup to maximize the number of favorable match-ups they can get for their hitters. And their right-handed-heavy lineup, the one that faces left-handed pitching, is arguably the weaker one, especially since the Yoenis Cespedes trade.

This series would provide a chance for that lineup to get some more consistent use. But it is also a crucial time for the A's, trying to stay in the playoff race, and at this point in the season manager Bob Melvin doesn't want his left-handed hitters going cold from lack of at-bats either.

So Melvin said he might mix some lefties into the lineup the next two days, especially on Tuesday against LeBlanc. For his career, left-handers have actually been markedly more successful against LeBlanc, batting .315 with a .902 OPS, than right-handers, who have hit .263 against him with a .751 OPS.

Wilson, though, has always been much tougher on lefties -- they've hit .197 against him in the majors with a .554 OPS. So it's a right-handed lineup for the A's tonight:

CF Crisp

RF Fuld

3B Donaldson

LF Gomes

DH Norris

SS Lowrie

1B Freiman

C Soto

2B Punto

And the Angels' lineup against A's right-hander Jeff Samardzija:

RF Calhoun

CF Trout

1B Pujols

3B Freese

SS Aybar

DH Boesch

C Iannetta

2B Beckham

LF Cowgill

Melvin said Lowrie is "good enough to play" after fouling a pitch off his left foot in the first inning Sunday and leaving the game several innings later with a contusion. Norris is also back in after missing Sunday's game with shoulder soreness, which Melvin said was from a play at the plate the day before.

Norris received "a little shot" yesterday for the soreness, "but is way better today," said Melvin.

Jason Hammel rejoined the team today after being away for several days for the birth of his child. Hammel said both Colby Jane Hammel and her mother are doing well.

Melvin said Hammel is going to make his next start Thursday in Texas -- unless the A's need him in an emergency long relief situation before then. "I do have a lot of pitchers," Melvin said. "But we'll do whatever we have to do on a particular day to win a game."

On that note, Melvin said closer Sean Doolittle isn't necessarily off limits today after throwing two innings in Sunday's win. Melvin pointed out Doolittle pitched five games in a row in the final week of the 2012 season with the A's fighting to make the playoffs

"He feels pretty good right now, but he hasn't played catch," Melvin said around 4 p.m. "We'll see how he feels. But right now it's all hands on deck."

It's a similar situation right now with Coco Crisp. Crisp hasn't been able to shake the neck issue that has bothered him for most of the season, and while he has been a lineup regular recently, he hasn't looked like his normal self. He's hitting just .193 since the All Star Break after batting .291 before the break.

Melvin said that in dealing with the neck pain, Crisp has "had to make some adjustments. You see kind of the position of his bat is a little lower, he's trying to be a little shorter to the ball.

"It's something he has to deal with, and he's learned to deal with it," Melvin said. "He's healthy enough to get out there and play, and he wants to play and wants to contribute."

A few weeks ago, it looked like this series might help decide the division. Instead, the Angels have already clinched and the A's are clinging to the top spot in the A.L. wild-card race. It's arguably a much more important series for the A's than the Angels, and they have the benefit of momentum from Josh Donaldson's walk-off homer Sunday.

"We're struggling to find something that can carry over to the next day, and get a couple, three games in a row where we win," Melvin said. "Hopefully that's a catalyst for it."

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