OAKLAND – Games first took on a playoff-like feel when the A’s arrived in Baltimore in late August, A’s manager Bob Melvin said. One can only imagine what it’s going to feel like now that the red-hot A’s are making their move.
The A’s completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday with a 5-1 victory in front of 18,639 at the Coliseum. That marked Oakland’s first three-game sweep since Jun 11-13, when they did the trick against the Yankees.
The A’s also moved within one game of the Texas Rangers in the American League West, with the Rangers rolling into town for a three-game series that starts Monday.
“Texas probably brings it to another level,” Melvin said of the intensity of games from here on out.
The Rays went from a one-half game lead over the A’s in the wild-card standings Friday to 2 ½ games behind after Sunday’s decisive defeat.
Yet, Melvin and his players aren’t concerned about a wild-card berth right now. They have their sights set upon defending their AL West title.
“That’s what we look for,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said of the much-awaited series against the Rangers. “We got a chance right now to control our own destiny and hopefully get where we want to be … and that’s winning our division.”
The A’s and Rangers play six times during the next two weeks. Sunday’s winning pitcher A.J. Griffin said the A’s are capable of beating any team if they play to their potential.
The Rays can attest to that after getting shut down by A’s starters three straight games and doing little damage against their relievers.
Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray and Griffin allowed four runs in 20 2/3 innings combined.
“We have a really good pitching staff,” center fielder Coco Crisp said. “We lean on them. That’s been our M.O. since I’ve been here. It’s our backbone. And now we have some scrappy guys here that can kind of help them out when they get in trouble.”
Crisp failed to mention the critical role he plays in the A’s overall success. Then again, he didn’t have to with Melvin and Crisp’s teammates trumpeting his importance.
Crisp hit a home run in his final at-bat Saturday night and then added another solo blast leading off the first Sunday/
“What he does to lead off a game like that, all of a sudden the momentum is in our dugout right away,” Melvin said.
The Rays tied the game in the second. The A’s regained the lead in the third on a Brandon Moss run-scoring single. The score remained that way until catcher Stephen Vogt turned on his former team for the second straight game.
Vogt tripled and scored the game’s first run Saturday night. On Sunday, he hit a solo home run in the eighth to give the A’s an insurance run. He also played a pivotal role defensively.
In the seventh, Rays right fielder Wil Myers laced a two-out double. He then attempted to score on a sharp single by Desmond Jennings.
Left fielder Yoenes Cespedes fielded the ball cleanly, delivered a strike to cutoff man Josh Donaldson, who fired to catcher Vogt.
Myers eluded Vogt’s initial tag attempt with a wide slide. However, Vogt alertly tagged Myers before he could touch the plate.
“Defense has always been my No. 1 priority,” Vogt said. “Whatever I can do offensively is icing on the cake. Obviously, the home run felt great. It was a big run for us and it was a great personal moment for me.”
Vogt has made the most of his opportunity while Derek Norris and John Jaso are injured.
“For a guy who has not played much in the big leagues to be in this type of position right now, playing against his former team like that, he has to feel pretty good,” Melvin said. As do we.”
— The only run allowed by Griffin, naturally, came on a home run. That marked the 33rd home run allowed by Griffin this season, most in the league.
— Shortstop Jed Lowrie doubled in the fifth inning for his league-high 18th double since the All-Star break. He set an Oakland record for most doubles in August with 13.
— Crisp hit a home run for the sixth time in 11 games. He now has 16 for the season, which matches his career-high (2005, Cleveland Indians)
— Right fielder Josh Reddick said his right wrist has been pain free since Friday and that he is hopeful of being activated from the disabled list Sept. 10.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s taking some batting practice a little bit later in the week,” Melvin said. “Once he starts to do that, then it’s a day-by-day process.”
Reddick said he intends to hit in a batting cage soon, perhaps as soon as Monday.
“That’s the plan,” Reddick said.
— Norris made it through seven innings in a rehab stint without any issue from the broken left big toe he suffered Aug. 21.
Norris was slated to be the designated hitter Sunday – he hit a two-run home run — and then play nine innings at catcher Monday, Melvin said.