Tommy Milone started Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers after having what was, for him, a so-so September.
A year later he’s not even guaranteed a spot on the Oakland roster despite the fact that he is, by his own admission “feeling like I’m pitching better this September than last year.’’
The difference is that last year he was in the starting rotation for virtually the entire season, finishing 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA.
After allowing five runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings in beating the Angels Monday, Milone is 12-9 with a 4.14 ERA. The size of that ERA is not so subtle evidence that he’s not in the A’s rotation now, although he was for most of the first five months of the season.
So Monday was something of a last chance for Milone to acquit himself and pitch his way onto the A’s October roster, if not into the post-season rotation.
There are times he can’t help but think about it, but he indicated that when he was on the mound, that wasn’t on his mind.
“Obviously I want to be on this roster,’’ he said. “But that’s not in my control. I want to help. If I’m in the bullpen, I’ve got no problem with that.’’
Milone has some support in manager Bob Melvin, who was quick to point out that were it not for an error early in the third inning Milone likely would have given up just one or two runs instead of five.
“He was out there after having pitched in relief two days ago,’’ Melvin said. “He gives us all a good impression. He’s taken two starts this month on short rest and he’s pitched effectively both times.’’
The A’s have three other left-handed relievers who will make the post-season roster in Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Brett Anderson, so it might be a stretch for the club to take a fourth. But the way the A’s like to mix and match and play percentages, having that extra lefty might be a risk worth taking.
–The A’s aren’t exactly making all this winning look effortless, but they are making it look inevitable.
Oakland is hitting home runs at a prodigious clip and winning games at the much the same pace. In getting to a season-best 31 games over .500, the A’s have won five games in succession, 11 of 13 and 14 of 17.
In those 17 games the A’s have hit 30 homers and scored 116 runs, an average of 6.82 runs per game.
So if the A’s were to catch Boston for the best record in the American League, it wouldn’t be a surprise as much as it would be the reward for playing consistently well over a long period of time.
If the two teams end with the same record, the tiebreaker goes to the team with the best record in the division. Boston has 43 wins in the AL East and the A’s have 42 wins in the AL West. But the remaining five A’s games are all against the West (two more with the Angels and three with the Mariners) while the Red Sox have three games left against the East (Baltimore) and two interleague games (Colorado).
If both teams win out, the A’s would finish 47-29 in the West and the Red Sox 46-30 in the East, so the importance of the remaining five games on the schedule isn’t lost to the A’s.