Second baseman Cliff Pennington has played in several meaningless Septembers for the A’s since breaking into the big leagues in 2008. Pennington is the team’s longest tenured position player — Daric Barton technically has more service time, but he’s also spent much of the past two seasons in the minors — and thus Pennington has a deep appreciation for being part of this late-season push for the postseason that Oakland is part of.
“It’s awesome,” Pennington said after Sunday’s 5-4 victory over the Yankees that helped the A’s avoid a three-game sweep.
They are four games behind Texas as they begin a four-game series Monday against the Rangers in Arlington, and they hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the A.L.’s second wild card spot. As the A’s play these final 10 games of the regular season, you can’t overlook the inexperience of so many important players on their roster. Not just inexperience in terms of time in the majors, though that is significant. But inexperience as far as playing in big, pressure-packed games. We tend to focus on the inexperience of the A’s young pitching staff, but it goes for much of their roster. Even the starting position player who’s been in green and gold the longest, Pennington, is playing in his first pennant race. He credits some of the veterans the A’s imported this season for helping others be ready for it.
“Fortunately, we’ve had some guys come in — Jonny Gomes in particular and (Brandon) Inge when he was here — they’ve been there before and helped us (prepare) for what it was gonna be like,” Pennington said. “For everybody else going through it for the first time, we’re just trying to slow the game down, take it one game at a time, and put a good run out there.”
–Given how overworked the A’s bullpen was after Saturday’s 14-inning defeat, I thought the A’s only chance to avoid a sweep Sunday was for starter A.J. Griffin to pitch deep in the game. … Didn’t happen. The rookie lasted just 4 1/3 innings and left another huge task for the relief corps. That group responded, as Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour blanked New York over the final 4 2/3 innings. But the problem doesn’t go away, because the A’s have no more days off. So now it’s up to rookie Dan Straily on Monday to eat up innings and try to take some pressure off the bullpen. That’s no easy task given how tough Rangers Ballpark can be on pitchers. Straily, making just his sixth big league start, will be facing the Rangers for the first time …