“Clutch Norris” leads A’s three-headed catching monster

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OAKLAND — There is one lone sticker on the nameplates in the A’s locker room. It boasts the words “Clutch Norris” above Derek Norris’ stall.

Never have the words been more true than Tuesday night when the catcher came off the bench in the sixth inning and collected the team’s final five RBI over two at-bats, including the game winner.

He became the 21st player and fourth Athletic in MLB history to enter the game as a substitute and collect at least five RBI, joining fellow A’s Mickey Tettleton, Erubiel Durazo (2004) and Seth Smith (2012) on the short list.

“That doesn’t really happen too often,” Norris acknowledged after his fourth career pinch-hit home run. “Never had a five-RBI game off the bench.”

But Norris was only one of three catchers to contribute in the A’s 10-6 win over Yu Darvish and the rival Rangers.

[RECAP: A’s 10, Rangers 6]

Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso combined to go 7-for-8 with seven RBI and three runs in support of winning pitcher Tommy Milone.

“It’s a lot of fun right now,” Milone said after extending his career high-tying winning streak to five games. “Especially when they’re all in the lineup together, it seems like they are all producing.”

“It’s awesome,” said Vogt. “It’s a three-headed … catching … situation.”

It sounded like he wanted to call the catching trio a “three-headed monster” and resisted, but it wouldn’t have been an overstatement.

“We have three guys that could start in a number of places,” Melvin said. “It’s a luxury.”

Still, after pinning Darvish with his eighth loss in 10 starts against Oakland, the A’s are not ready to claim they’ve figured him out.

“We’re fortunate,” Melvin said after the game. “As far as that quality a pitcher that you end up having success against, I’d have to think for a while.”

Darvish, who can take solace in reaching the 600-strikeout milestone in the first inning, is now 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in three starts against the A’s this year. He’s lost eight of 10 career starts against Oakland.

“I don’t know what it is about Darvish’s style that just fits into our hitting pattern,” Norris said. “One through nine, that guy was just grinding. Every guy that came up, it was a battle.

“I can only imagine that it can be a little frustrating. Sometimes good pitchers just have that one kryptonite team.”

The sticker above Norris’ locker might as well have have read “Superman” on Tuesday.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?