Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
The A’s waited until the final day of the regular season last year to capture the division title.
This year, the A’s enter the final month of the regular season in a highly contested battle against their division foes from Texas for the AL West crown. Entering Tuesday’s game, the A’s and Rangers both sit in first place atop the AL West with 79 wins a piece.
It would be safe to say, then, that this final month will carry some excitement and heated tension. The A’s looked doomed back in August after a disappointing home-stand ended with a loss to Seattle back on August 21. Things looked even worse leading up to the A’s series against Detroit.
Oakland’s toughest stretch, however, has brought the best out of the team. The A’s are suddenly playing better baseball and are starting to see some consistency from all over the field. The offense has stepped up with timely hits and the pitching has been consistently good during this recent hot streak.
The A’s took three of four from the Tigers in Detroit and just recently started their 10-game home stand with a sweep against the contending Tampa Bay Rays. Add in their win yesterday against the Rangers, and you begin to sense that the A’s are on a nice little run heading into the final weeks of the season.
Keeping the momentum going will be the test for the A’s, however.
After they conclude their series with the Rangers on Wednesday, the A’s will welcome the Astros to the Coliseum for a four game set to finish off this home stand. The A’s schedule is a lot easier than the Rangers’ remaining schedule and Oakland must take advantage of that.
The A’s will square off against the Twins and Rangers on the road. Then they will welcome both the Angels and Twins to the Coliseum from September 16-22 for the A’s final home stand of the year. The A’s will then finish on the road against the Angels and Mariners.
Not only do the A’s have to take advantage of their easier schedule, they must also play well against the Rangers. Entering Tuesday, the A’s are 6-8 against their division rivals.
The goal for this month is to continue to play well and capture the division crown once again. The A’s enjoyed a great deal of success last September, riding a hot streak that led to their first division title since 2006. It was a pure team effort last season and it will almost assuredly be a team effort once more this year, but here are three players you should watch out for while the A’s try to enjoy success in September:
- Jarrod Parker—Parker has taken over the A’s young rotation. The A’s have been led for much of the year by veteran Bartolo Colon, who leads the team with 14 wins, but Parker has been the better pitcher as of late. After starting the year with a 1-4 record in April to go along with an ERA over 7.00, Parker has settled in as Oakland’s brightest young star. In six starts last month, Parker went 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA over 44.1 innings of work. Parker’s success is good news for the A’s as they head into the final month of the regular season. Any type of performance similar to the one Parker put up in August would be great news for Oakland.
- Coco Crisp—Crisp, like the A’s themselves, are on a roll. Crisp hit .304 with 5 HR and 9 RBI last month. He hit another home run yesterday in the A’s win over the Rangers. Crisp’s 17 HR are the highest single-season total of his career. It is often said that when Crisp is performing well, so are the A’s. The A’s are playing their best baseball right now and Crisp is definitely a major part of the team’s recent success. If he can remain healthy—he sustained a shin injury in Monday’s win—Crisp could very well help lead the A’s to a second-consecutive division title.
- Yoenis Cespedes—Cespedes has been in a major sophomore slump all year-long. The Cuban Missile belted his 21st homer on Monday, but has hit just .231/.290/.426 on the year. His offensive stats are down, but there are some good signs to point to when it comes to Cespedes as we approach the final stretch run. He’s been on a mini-tear over the last seven days, hitting .348 with a home run and three RBI during that stretch. Sure, it’s a small sample-size when you compare it to his awful month of August, where he hit just .216/.252/.382, but any sign of improvement is good. Perhaps Monday’s home run is a sign for good things to come for the outfielder. Cespedes was a big part of the club’s success last season and while he hasn’t made much noise this year, Cespedes still figures to be a big presence in Oakland’s lineup.
There are plenty of other players to watch out for, like Josh Donaldson, the ever consistent Jed Lowrie, and the entire cast of Oakland’s bullpen which now features Brett Anderson as a lefty reliever. Overall, this September will boil down to one thing: team-work. The A’s are not built around any one player, but rather built to succeed as a team. The players mentioned are simply a few players who might help ignite the rest of the team as they search for their right to play baseball in October.