Three up, three down: A’s are a surprise, but hitters pitching isn’t anymore


All A’s: The Athletics got to 60 wins faster than any team in the National League. As an American League team, they are fighting for a wild-card spot, but that’s a pleasantly unlikely spot for a team with a payroll so low — less than half that of the Angels or Dodgers — that the players union cited the A’s as a team pocketing revenue-sharing dollars without properly investing them in players. The A’s have more home runs than any AL team besides the Yankees and Red Sox. The roster includes infielder Jed Lowrie, a first-time all-star at 34; pitcher Edwin Jackson, on his 13th major league team; and DH Khris Davis, on pace for his third consecutive 40-homer season. Davis hit the game-winning homer on consecutive days in Texas this week, once with the A’s one strike from defeat and once to cap a comeback from a 10-2 deficit.

For the record:

5:00 p.m. Aug. 9, 2018An item about Albert Pujols in this article incorrectly stated that Barry Bonds hit 763 home runs. Bonds hit 762.

Hit man: Vladimir Guerrero will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, and Albert Pujols will follow him there, probably in 2027. Even as he plays out his career as a good but no longer feared hitter — 44 intentional walks in 2009, two this year — Pujols steadily marches up the all-time charts. Home runs, of course: Pujols passed Ken Griffey Jr. on Wednesday, and with 631 he trails only Barry Bonds (763), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696) and Willie Mays (660). Hits too, though: Ichiro Suzuki might be the purest hitter since Tony Gwynn but Pujols (3,060) is about to pass Suzuki (3,089), each with 18 years in the majors. Gwynn got his 3,141 hits in 20 years; Pujols ought to catch him in his 19th year.


Fields of dreams: When Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers to Guggenheim Baseball in 2012, he asked that the new owners fulfill the promise to build 50 youth diamonds at parks across the Los Angeles area. When McCourt departed, the team’s foundation had completed 25 of the Dodgers Dreamfields. On Monday, Guggenheim will make good on its pledge to deliver the other 25. Yasiel Puig contributed $50,000 toward the cost of the 50th field, at Algin Sutton Park in South Central L.A. That will be the second Dreamfield at the site, where in 1989 the late scout John Young launched the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, the first major effort to lure African American youth back to the sport.


Now batting, er, pitching: With more than two months to go, the baseball already has set a record for use of position players as pitchers. What used to be an entertaining diversion in a blowout has become almost routine, at a time teams stuff their bullpens with eight or nine actual relievers but deploy them for one or two batters each. “Relax, folks. It’s a baseball game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It is not life and death.” Maddon pitched two position players in a game his team trailed by only five runs, three days after he pitched three position players in an 18-5 loss. If Commissioner Rob Manfred mandates that relievers face a certain number of batters — and he’s thought about it — this will be one reason why.

He was on fire: In Cincinnati, on the night after the Cardinals’ Daniel Poncedeleon pitched seven no-hit innings in his first major league start, the Cardinals’ Austin Gomber pitched six no-hit innings in his first major league start. Not to say that the Reds might have been red-faced but, as Gomber took the mound for the seventh inning, fire alarms blared and emergency lights flashed throughout Great American Ball Park. The game was delayed seven minutes, after which Gomber got the first out, then gave up a double and home run. The Reds blamed a malfunctioning detector for the false alarm, and Gomber declined to blame it for his demise. “Pretty odd timing,” Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said. The Reds played this song on the stadium sound system: “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Play ball: The Rams’ Todd Gurley is an elite player: two-time all-pro, reigning NFL offensive player of the year, second to Tom Brady in last season’s MVP vote. Gurley this week agreed to a contract extension that guarantees him $45 million over four years, from ages 26 to 29. Though the NFL hyped the deal as the largest ever awarded to a running back, that wouldn’t approach any kind of record in baseball. Troy Glaus, a four-time all-star third baseman who never finished higher than 30th in an MVP vote, signed a contract that guaranteed him $45 million over four years, from ages 28 to 31. Oh, and Glaus signed that deal 14 years ago.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin