Aug 23, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) at the end of the top of the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The most exciting playoff baseball of 2014 is being played in Oakland in August. After an exhilarating victory on Friday night, the Oakland Athletics played host to a nail-biter on Saturday between Jon Lester and C.J. Wilson ultimately beating the halos 2-1.
Jon Lester pitched a very solid seven innings allowing a single earned run and issuing seven strike outs. Though he didn’t get the W for his outing, Lester did keep heavy hitters like Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Collin Cowgill off of the base path and brought his ERA down to 2.53.
Luke Gregerson was awarded the win for the evening after Coco Crisp gave the A’s their lead in the eighth, scoring off of a wild pitch by Joe Smith. Sean Doolittle also earned his 20th save on the season after facing four batters in the ninth inning.
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It is easy to look at a 2-1 score and worry that the A’s slump isn’t rebounding but these are the scores one should expect from the two best teams in baseball. These are playoff scores and nobody should expect a blowout against either the A’s or the Angels. After Friday and Saturday’s games, the A’s are playing baseball in much the way they were prior to the trade deadline and against most other teams would have probably scored 10 runs but these Angels are, statistically, equal to the A’s.
The slumping Athletics had hits from Crisp, Gentry, Norris, Gomes, Callaspo and Fuld, walks from Donaldson, Gomes and Freiman and a stolen base from Gentry. If they can continue production like this, particularly from Callaspo, Freiman and Fuld who are not everyday players, through the end of the season, they will enjoy a great deal of success in the pennant race.
The A’s were able to keep the win expectancy in their favor through the entire game (see below) which is in stark contrast to games even a week ago (see below below)which suggests that the tides are turning for Oakland and the slump is a thing of the past.
The final game of this series, a nationally broadcast game, pits Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73) against Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70) and will bring some of the A’s left handed batters off of the bench for the first time this weekend. I give the A’s the edge in this final match because Kazmir has a 8-2 record and an ERA of 2.28 at home compared to Weaver’s 6-3, 4.82 record in away games. Also, the A’s are hitting .352 against Weaver this year with Callaspo taking three hits and a walk on four at bats against the pitcher.
A sweep of this series will put the A’s back in sole possession of 1st place in the AL West, put fans hearts at ease and, hopefully, set up the momentum this team needs to get through the final five weeks of the season. Going in to Sunday’s match, the A’s are 8-3 against the Angels and undefeated at the O.co. It is worth noting that the attendance for this weekend is expected to reach about 105,000. It is also worth noting that there were three replays in this game, one from each manager and an umpire review, with only one (the sole Angels review) being overturned.