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Bay Area Sports Beat: What You Need to Know Right Now

Surprise, surprise: Josh Donaldson is pulling the strings for the surging A's. (Image courtesy of cbssports.com) 

Whoa, whoa, whoa – the Oakland A’s aren’t actually allowed to lose, are they?

Based on their recent run of form, you can forgive A’s fans for expecting victory every time out.

Oakland dropped the finale of its four-game series with the White Sox 4-2 in Chicago to start a somewhat shocking two-game losing streak. It’s only shocking when you consider that the A’s hadn’t lost consecutive games since May 14-15 (h/t Jane Lee).

They also navigated a difficult 17-game stretch of games in 17 consecutive days, coming out unscathed and in better shape with a 13-4 record during the baseball marathon.

They’ve won 18 of their last 23 games and find themselves only a half game behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West.

Oakland’s success shouldn’t be that hard to fathom, considering it won the AL West last season and all, but still is largely overshadowed by its free-spending rivals in Texas and the geographically confused Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The A’s have managed to stay competitive in spite of having the MLB’s 27th-ranked payroll at just over $60 million.

The Rangers are No. 11 and the Angels are No. 7 at more than double Oakland’s payroll.

One can chalk up much of the Athletics’ not-so-surprising-but-kind-of-surprising success on the breakout season from 27-year-old third baseman Josh Donaldson.

In his first season of full-time duty, Donaldson leads the A’s in batting average (.324), runs batted in (42) and hits (77).

Donaldson hit a crucial grand slam on Friday night to lead the A’s to a 4-3 victory.

“That’s big-time stuff,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told The San Francisco Chronicle afterward. “(Donaldson) keeps coming up with bigger and bigger hits.”  

The A’s will enjoy a much-needed day off today before playing host to the New York Yankees.

Road sweet road.

There’s life outside of AT&T Park, after all.

The San Francisco Giants rallied to win a pivotal series against the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks which brought the struggling Giants rare success away from San Francisco’s foggy confines.

After a late deflating loss on Friday night in the opener, the Giants bounced back with a 10-5 victory on Saturday and a 6-2 win in Sunday’s rubber match behind home runs from Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro.

It was the Giants’ first series win away from AT&T Park since late April, the Giants’ last trip to Arizona (h/t Andrew Baggarly).  

The win leaves the Giants 1.5 games behind the Diamondbacks.

Top-arm honors for Stanford hurler.

Mark Appel etched his name in Bay Area baseball lore when he was selected as the No. 1 pick of the Major League Baseball amateur draft on Thursday by the Houston Astros.

Appel, who recently completed his senior season at Stanford, was picked No. 8 overall last year, but couldn’t reach a contract agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates, so returned to Palo Alto for one last hurrah.

The former standout at Monte Vista High School in Danville was also drafted out of high school, but opted to attend Stanford instead.

He’s the first Bay Area product to be the first overall pick since Bellarmine standout and San Francisco cult hero Pat Burrell went No. 1 in 1998.

“It means a lot," Appel told the MLB Network. “This has just been such a surreal moment for me and my family, just knowing I’m going back home. It’s really an honor.”

Appel prepped in Danville but was born in Houston.

Draft low: @seanswaby