OAKLAND – Josh Donaldson boosted his All-Star candidacy once again Sunday, putting his bat, his glove and his toughness on display in the A’s 7-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's outslug Cardinals]
It will be a shame if Donaldson doesn’t make the American League squad, but it also won’t change the big-picture reality of what we’re witnessing.
As the season ticks away, Donaldson keeps finding ways to impress. It’s becoming harder to think his early-season stats are a fluke, and easier to believe he’s simply becoming one of the majors’ top all-around third basemen.
For now, it’s his All-Star hopes that dominate the discussion. The A’s haven’t had a position player be named to the Midsummer Classic since catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003.
But regardless of whether Donaldson makes it – and the odds are stacked against him considering the established stars playing his position – he’s emerged as Oakland’s biggest bright spot of the season, given his age and potential to keep getting better.
Donaldson, 27, said he’s trying to block out the All-Star discussion.
“If someone wants to say that I’m having an All-Star year, that’s fine,” Donaldson said. “That’s not why I play the game. I play the game because I love it, first of all, and I play to help my team win. If I just focus on helping our team win, and try to do something productive for the team, I feel the individual stuff is gonna take care of itself.”
Fans vote in the All-Star starters, and the most recent results show Donaldson is fifth in A.L. fan voting for third basemen (635,581 votes). That’s light years behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, a runaway leader with 4,337,223 votes.
It seems unlikely he’ll be voted in as a reserve by players and coaches given he has yet to play a full major league season and isn’t a name that immediately pops to mind.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland – the A.L. skipper – gets to choose a handful of players, but it would be easy for him to justify bolstering his pitching staff by choosing Bartolo Colon and/or Grant Balfour, both deserving A’s candidates.
Donaldson is tied for second among A.L. third basemen with a .316 batting average. His 53 RBI rank second and his 13 homers are fifth. He’s also tied for second in doubles (22) and walks (35).
Ask A’s left-hander Tommy Milone, who went six innings to earn Sunday’s victory, and Donaldson has earned his ticket to Citi Field for the July 16 showcase.
“He obviously deserves to go there,” Milone said. “He does it all -- defensively, offensively. I’m sure if he pitched, he’d do well too.”
Donaldson went 2-for-3 Sunday with a double and an opposite-field homer that turned a one-run lead into a two-run cushion in the seventh. But it was defense that stood out, particularly after he lost a routine pop fly in the sun that contributed to the Cardinals’ two-run third inning.
Seemingly hell-bent on making up for that, Donaldson made a running catch of Matt Carpenter’s foul pop off the third-base line in the fourth. Sprinting full-speed, he made the catch and crashed into the rolled-up tarp that sits along the railing. He fell head-first in the tight space between the tarp and the wall, his spikes dangling skyward before he regained his balance.
“It felt like one of those old-time football plays where I used to get hit at the legs and do a flip,” Donaldson said.
That play was important because the Cards led 5-4 at the time and had a runner in scoring position.
He came up big again in the seventh with the A’s leading 6-5 and the tying run at second with two outs.
Donaldson ranged left and made a diving stop of Allen Craig’s sharp grounder, scrambling to his feet and making the throw to first.
“There were more theatrics on the one with the tarp because it was a tough play,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “but the play in the hole was a game-saver.”
And it’s typical of the lift Donaldson has provided the A’s (48-35), who took two of three from the Cardinals and stayed a half-game behind Texas for first place in the A.L. West.
It wasn’t all cheery for the A’s on Sunday. Center fielder Coco Crisp left the game after three innings with back spasms and is considered day to day. Melvin said Crisp originally hurt himself making a diving effort Saturday, and aggravated his back while making a sensational diving catch of Matt Holliday’s first-inning drive Sunday.