Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Crucible

On the very same day when in the morning we acquired the stud, proven playoff pitcher whom we presumably believe could win a postseason-series clincher or two--the game we've lost far more often than not in the last several seasons--our primary postseason nemesis goes out in the afternoon and adds a third Cy Young winner to its starting staff. Then, late, late that night, while everyone's talking about what we're going to do in the playoffs, the team that is actually chasing us right now in the American League West, the Angels … gaining on us, in fact … gaining on us for about six weeks now … that team wins again--in the 13th inning.

That was Thursday.

And then Friday? A's lose, 1-0, and the Angels win again. The division lead is down to one game.

Fifty-four games to go, baby. Time to put on the Coco Crisp shirt. Time to put on the 1968 cap. Time to get out the Bert Campaneris and Mitchell Page cards. Time to dial in. Time to make some plays.


  1. It was 1-0, Kansas City, through four and a half innings today, and Oakland was hitless. But then Derek Norris, the team leader in batting average this season at .300 flat, doubled to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Then seven of the next nine A's to the plate singled (new Jonny Gomes did so twice); another walked. And, by the end of the inning, Oakland had eight runs and was on its way to an 8-3 victory in Jon Lester's A's debut.

    Then the Angels lost, to Tampa, and now Oakland's lead in the division is back to two games.

  2. No hits among the top six A's in the batting order Sunday, and the Royals win the series rubber, 4-2, in Oakland. Angels win. The division lead is again back to one game.

  3. Still one game!

    When I went to bed last night, the Angels were clobbering the Dodgers, and MLB Network was starting to go all Leni Riefenstahl about the muscular majesty of Mike Trout at the plate and in centerfield. Meanwhile, the A's, who are now down to batting Mario Mendoza cleanup after giving up on offense in favor of stacking pitchers who can stare down Justin Verlander, were trailing, 2-1, at home against Tampa.

    It was a night of sleep fraught with despair (over the presumably lost division lead) and fear (of oversleeping work commitments) that ended early. I came out to the living room at 4, flipped on the TV and quickly muted before MLB Network got itself fired up on the screen. Alas, here was a highlight of Rays manager Joe Maddon being tossed for arguing a no-swing call on A Josh Donaldson in the bottom of the tenth inning! The A's had somehow gotten a second run and sent the game to extra innings! Alasalas, here was Derek Norris bouncing a two-out, two-strike, run-scoring single into shallow centerfield!

    Alasalasalas! The A's! The A's! The A's! First place, still!

  4. TWO games! When I went to bed, the A's and Rays were scoreless in Oakland, and the Angels and Dodgers were tied at three somewhere in the Los Angeles metro area. Dodgers ended up beating the Angels, 5-4, and then Coco Crisp came back and singled in the first run in what eventually turned in to a 3-0 A's victory. #GREENCOLLAR!

  5. Still two. A's lose, but so do Angels. A's open series with Twins tonight in Oakland; Angels finish with visiting Dodgers, before receiving Red Sox for the weekend.

    American League West
    1. Oakland 69-44
    2. Los Angeles 67-46, 2.0 behind
    3. Seattle 59-54, 10.0
    4. Houston 47-67, 22.5
    5. Texas 45-69, 24.5

    AL East
    1. Baltimore 64-49
    2. Toronto 61-54, 4.0
    3. New York 59-54, 5.0

    AL Central
    1. Detroit 62-49
    2. Kansas City 59-59, 3.5
    3. Cleveland 57-57, 6.5

    NL East
    1. Washington 61-51
    2. Atlanta 58-56, 4.0

    NL Central
    1. Milwaukee 62-52
    2. St. Louis 60-52, 1.0
    3. Pittsburgh 60-53, 1.5
    4. Cincinnati 58-56, 4.0

    NL West
    1. Los Angeles 65-50
    2. San Francisco 62-52, 2.5

  6. THREE-(!)-game lead. Seventy wins. Thursday night's: 3-0 over visiting Minnesota. And the Dodgers whipped the Angels, 7-0.

    The little girl started school this week, and it's really wearing her out. I helped her get to sleep last night, and I knew I would miss the first several innings of the game, which started at 9 Central. Indeed, she fell asleep so early that I got to my computer just in time to follow the animation of the first couple of batters in the home half of the third inning.

    The game was still scoreless, and the A's had no hits. Over the last week, I'm not sure any of the first six A's in a batting order have gotten a hit in his first trip to the plate in a game. Anyway, last year's huge late-season pickup, Alberto Callaspo, walked to lead off the third. Then came Stephen Vogt, who has been great this season but had failed to get a hit in his previous 23 at-bats.

    Ball. Ball. Strike. Foul. Foul.


    When there's a big pause in the animation, you know either your old wireless router is on the fritz or there's some kind of definitive action on the far-off field that needs to be figured out before the guys inside the scoreboard can find the right numbers to hang up for us to see.

    HOME RUN, STEPHEN VOGT! It was 2-0. That was good enough for me. I went to bed and turned it over to this season's big late-season pickup, Jon Lester.

    I think I love Jon Lester.

    "We all know what Cespedes did for this organization and how well he's liked," he was quoted in Jane Lee's Oakland-oriented wrap for "Just coming over here, you don't want to screw that up. You want to make the trade look like it had a purpose and it was good. You don't want to come in halfway through the year after these guys have been battling their butts off to be in first place and screw that up."

    Lester went the whole way: 122 pitches, three hits, two walks. Shutout.

    THREE-(!)-game lead!

  7. The lead is four games. A's hold on for a 6-5 lead over Minnesota, and the Angels lose, 4-2, to .

    Big hit in the Oakland game was Coco Crisp's full-count, bases full triple in the fifth that broke open a scoreless tie. Then, an inning later, Eric Sogard--our .200-ish-hitting middle infielder--doubled in a couple more; Sogard hit his first homer of the season just the other night, so maybe he's going to be the one who assumes Yoenis Cespedes's role in the batting order. Anyway, the Twins came back from 6-0 behind, but Oakland's bullpen came on to extend a team-record scoreless streak to 28 2/3 innings.

    When Oakland was trading for starting pitching over the last several weeks, I didn't understand why we weren't going after relievers instead. That seemed the bigger hole to me. But Bob Melvin told Jane Lee after last night's game that the talent and depth has always been there in the bullpen; it just took the A's two-thirds of the season to figure out everybody's roles.

    As an A's fan, I am so thrilled that it's Bob Melvin and Billy Beane calling the shots and not me.

    1. Angels lost to Boston. Cespedes got a hit. Nice work, Cespedes.

  8. Yoenis Cespedes knocks in all three runs, and the Angels go down, 3-1!

    It was a good thing, too, because Oakland lost, 6-1, to Minnesota. With Cespedes and the Red Sox beating Los Angels, the A's remain four games up in the American League West--and tomorrow start a series with the red-hot Royals.