OAKLAND – Brandon Moss says he feels a sense of responsibility hitting cleanup for the A’s behind Josh Donaldson.
“He’s powerful and he’s got a great swing and can hit anything,” Moss said after Friday's 9-5 victory over the Angels. “You gotta be some kind of a threat. That’s all I’m trying to do -- be somebody who (makes opponents) have to pitch to our best hitter.”
Teams indeed are pitching to Donaldson right now, and they’re paying for it. He cranked two home runs Friday – Nos. 14 and 15 on the season – as part of his four-RBI night. Over his past five games, Donaldson is a blistering 10 for 23 with five home runs and 10 RBI.
Remember before the season, when one of the big storylines surrounding the A’s was whether their third baseman could repeat his breakout 2013 season? He seems intent on surpassing it.
“He’s playing really well right now across the board,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He has great focus, a great idea of how he’s gonna get pitched on a particular night. And his defense always comes with him.”
Donaldson’s name is scattered across the top of most significant offensive categories in the American League. He leads the league with 47 runs and ranks in the top five in homers, RBI, on-base-plus-slugging, extra-base hits and total bases.
And to new-age baseball minds, Donaldson ranks second only to the Angels’ Mike Trout in the American League in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which quantifies a player’s total value to his team.
But you can’t discuss Donaldson’s excellence at the plate this season without taking into account the protection Moss has provided batting one spot behind him. That’s what makes Moss’ calf injury that knocked him out of Friday’s victory so important to monitor.
Moss left in the third inning after saying he felt his right calf “ball up” as he was running out to the field between innings to give Josh Reddick his glove. Apparently that’s what a guy gets for trying to be helpful.
“It balled up pretty good,” Moss said. “I figured if I can’t get the cramp out, I probably need to get it taken care of so it doesn’t linger.”
Melvin listed Moss as doubtful for Saturday night against the Angels. What a bittersweet three innings it was for Moss. He stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the first and belted his first career grand slam to highlight a five-run rally off Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards, who didn’t make it out of the first.
How did it feel circling the bases?
“Really good,” Moss said. “Four-run homers – you can’t really do anything better as a hitter.”
Donaldson and Moss feed off each other in the 3-4 spots. Donaldson sees better pitches because teams worry about Moss’ power. And Donaldson’s ability to get on base is one reason Moss has racked up 46 RBI – fourth in the A.L., one ahead of Donaldson.
“I’ve been seeing some pretty decent pitching for a while now,” Donaldson said. “Moss is having a great year and it’s one of those ordeals where you have to pick your poison, I feel like.”
Donaldson’s all-around tools have impressed another standout A’s third baseman from the past. Sal Bando is in town for the 40th anniversary celebration of the team’s 1974 World Series championship. He’s watched Donaldson plenty – in-person during visits to spring training and on television. Bando is impressed with what Donaldson brings.
“The thing I like about Josh is he plays like a hard-nosed player,” Bando said. “He really digs in. I think that’s what you build a team around, players like that.”
Right now, Donaldson is playing like a guy that can carry a team.
“The difference for me between going well and going bad is the pitches that you get, you’re not missing them. Tonight I didn’t miss them.”