August 22, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Sean Doolittle (62) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Angels 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, the Athletics’ future looked dim right around this time in the season. In August, the A’s started off 9-12 before a big series with Detroit, a team they would likely face in the playoffs. This season, the A’s were 8-11 heading into a big series with the division-leading Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
In the Tigers’ series, the A’s took 3 of 4 in Detroit. On Friday night, the A’s won the first game of a 3-game set with the Angels 5-3. With 9 more games to play against LAA, and the Athletics currently sporting a 7-3 record against the Halos, these games will either propel the A’s to a 3rd straight division crown, or will see them fall into the Wild Card game. If the recent past is any indicator, the A’s will be crowned yet again.
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Friday night the A’s played like this game was a playoff game. The crowd acted like it was a playoff game. The Angels acted like they hadn’t been to the postseason since 2009…oh wait. The A’s scored a run in the home half of the 5th on a throwing error by Eric Aybar, on what should have been an inning-ending double play.
The A’s received a terrific pitching performance in a big game from Sonny Gray, who went 8 1/3 innings, giving up 3 earned. Opposing pitcher Hector Santiago went just 5 innings giving up 2 runs (1 earned). The newly revamped Angel ‘pen didn’t help Santiago out any, giving up an additional 3 runs in 3 innings pitched. While Sean Doolittle didn’t have his cleanest performance to close out the game, he did get the job done.
As evidenced by the 2012 Athletics, they don’t mind playing from behind. When this 2014 model is “on” there isn’t a team in baseball that can beat them. While many have been questioning Billy Beane‘s trade of Yoenis Cespedes with the team struggling, the bigger absence has been Coco Crisp‘s bat.
Well, guess who’s back. It all started Sunday night for Crisp in Atlanta. In his last at-bat, Coco fouled off some pitches and worked the count. He didn’t make it to first safely, but that is the type of at-bat you look for from a struggling hitter. Since, Crisp is 5 for his last 14, including the lead-off home run in Friday’s game that shifted the early momentum from the Angel dugout, to the Oakland bench.
Pairing a hot Coco Crisp with the return of Craig “Kitten Face” Gentry at the top of the lineup should see the A’s offense return to form in the coming weeks. The combination of their speed will cause havoc in a pitcher’s head. Look for Bob Melvin to attempt some double steals in situations where they both reach base. They provide the offense with a decent chance to get ahead of an opponent early.
With the starting pitching given a lead once more, they will settle down and return to the form that earned them the title “Four Aces”.
With rosters set to expand on September 1st, it’s likely that Drew Pomeranz comes up to offer some help to the bullpen and give them a little break before the postseason.
The way everything is shaping up, the Athletics could be surging once again heading in to October. While past versions of the Athletics’ squad have seem them falter, this year they have a legitimate ace in Jon Lester, and a pitcher in Gray who thrives in the spotlight.
It’s time to hop back on the bandwagon folks.