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Breaking down the A’s AL playoff possibilities

So what, exactly, did the A’s accomplish by winning Friday and moving to within one game of securing an American League Wild Card berth?

Perhaps not as much as you might think. Or maybe much more.

The A’s can still host the Tuesday Wild Card game. They can go on the road for the Tuesday Wild Card game. Or they can miss out on Tuesday all together.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

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Keeping Donaldson healthy allows A’s to take deep breath

Josh Donaldson's ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A's.

Josh Donaldson’s ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A’s.

The key playoff Friday’s 6-2 win over Texas for the A’s was a foul ball that didn’t impact the scoring at all.

It did impact third baseman Josh Donaldson, who drove his already-ailing left knee in to the ground in foul territory in pursuit of the Elvis Andrus grounder.

For a few minutes it seemed like Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out of the game, and the last two games of the season would have been up in the air.

Win or lose the game, the A’s would unquestionably have been sunk if Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out. He wasn’t and for that the A’s can only be thankful.

“I think everyone was holding their breath right there,’’ pitcher Scott Kazmir said. “He’s a huge part of what we have.’’

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Kazmir may have saved spot in possible post-season rotation

Scott Kazmir may have saved his spot in a possible ALDS rotation with Friday's win.

Scott Kazmir may have saved his spot in a possible ALDS rotation with Friday’s win.

It was, by Scott Kazmir’s own admission, a “huge relief’’ for him to go out and pitch the way he had the first four months of the season Friday.

He threw seven innings, allowed just four base runners and two runs, one earned.

No one will admit it, but Kazmir might have been pitching for his post-season life.

The veteran lefty came into the game 0-4 in his last six starts with an 8.58 ERA. And the ERA was mostly worse than that, because one of his losses in that stretch was 1-0.

Upper management was considering its options, which would likely have meant moving Jason Hammel in ahead of Kazmir.

While Kazmir had been slumping, Hammel had been pitching some of his best baseball of the season. In his last nine games, eight of them starts, he had a 2.49 ERA.

Now the question will be what to do with Hammel, because Kazmir seems to have locked up the final spot in a post-season American League Division Series rotation, should Oakland get that far.

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A tale of two No. 2s – Derek Jeter and Mike Gallego

Mike Gallego was the last Yankees' player to wear No. 2 before Derek Jeter made that number historic.

Mike Gallego was the last Yankees’ player to wear No. 2 before Derek Jeter made that number historic.

One of the many universal rules in baseball is that all rookies learn some tough lessons from the men who came before.

Even if you are Derek Jeter, even if the team is the Yankees and even if you were the team’s first-round draft pick.

Jeter came to came to the spring camp with the Yankees in 1994, 18 months after New York had used the sixth pick in the draft to take him. He was just 20, and he was a long time away from wearing his No. 2.

In fact, No. 2 at the time was worn by current A’s third base coach Mike Gallego, at that point in his final year as the Yankees shortstop.

Gallego got an email Friday from his daughter, Allison. It seems she’d found Instagram an interview from 1995 when Jeter talked about his Gallego in the spring of 1994 asking him how old he was and if he had a girlfriend.

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A’s trying to fend off Dream Crushing Texas to make playoffs

Stephen Vogt says A's focus remains on fact that the team remains in excellent shape to reach the post-season.

Stephen Vogt says A’s focus remains on fact that the team remains in excellent shape to reach the post-season.

Written on the whiteboard in the Texas Rangers clubhouse Thursday were two words that sum up the final four days of 2014 for the Rangers:

“Dream Crushers’’ it read.

The dream belongs not to the Rangers but to the A’s, who are scrambling to find a way to resuscitate in the final week of the season, claw their way back into the playoffs and then let the chips fall.

The A’s have lost seven of 10, haven’t played well for six weeks and yet still have a decent chance to get to the post-season.

Oakland stranded runners all over the place Thursday – they had a man reach base in every inning but the eighth – then lost when Adrian Beltre hit a walkoff homer in the ninth.

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A’s could make it easy on themselves with two wins, but …

The A’s and the Mariners are taking two very different treks to the same goal.

Only one of them will make it.

Oakland jumped out to the best record in baseball for the better part of four months and has been backsliding ever since.

Seattle was 11 games behind the A’s on Aug. 4 and was only four games over .500. From that point, the Mariners went on a 22-8 tear to get back into the pennant race, relying heavily on the A’s stumbling.

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Soto catching on for A’s during race to post-season

Geovany Soto's big swing in the first inning Monday was A's biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.

Geovany Soto’s big swing in the first inning Monday was A’s biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.

Some deals get more notoriety than others.

But for the final 10 days of the season, the trade that brought Geovany Soto to the A’s could rank there with any of them. Oakland picked him up from the Rangers in a little-noticed Aug. 24 transaction. Since then the A’s have been down two starting catchers, Soto and Derek Norris.

And for Sunday and Monday at least, it was just Soto. Norris is dealing with a shoulder problem and has taken a wild pitch off his jaw, so he could use the break.

All Soto has done has been to deliver three RBIs for the A’s in Sunday’s 10-inning win over the Phillies, then get the key hit of the game Monday, a bases-loaded single that drove in the middle two runs of a six-run first.

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Donaldson’s torrid defense has Samardzija all fired up

Josh Donaldson's play at third base Monday had the A's singing his praises.

Josh Donaldson’s play at third base Monday had the A’s singing his praises.

You get the feeling that Josh Donaldson really wants back into the post-season.

On Sunday he hit the walkoff homer in the 10th inning that gave the A’s a series win over the Phillies.

On Monday he made some spectacular defensive stops in helping control the Angels offense as Oakland won for the third time in four games, the first such stretch for the A’s since Aug. 19-22.

As a result, Oakland seems to have righted the ship and seems to be closing in on a Wild Card berth, although the A’s have a week’s worth of tough baseball ahead of them to make sure it happens.

The play of the day came to close out the seventh inning. Angels’ catcher Chris Iannetta smoked a hard grounder that Donaldson stopped, only to have the ball kick up into the air. He saw the ball hovering, grabbed it out of the air and threw to first for what would be the final out Jeff Samardzija would get.

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A’s woes against lefty starters to be put to test by Angels

How many plate trips can Josh Reddick and other A's lefties expect to get this week with Angels throwing three lefty starters?

How many plate trips can Josh Reddick and other A’s lefties expect to get this week with Angels throwing three lefty starters?

It’s no accident that the Angels are starting three left-handed pitchers against the A’s in a series that starts Monday night at the Coliseum.

There’s nothing much on the line for the Angels, who are in the playoffs as American League West champs, although the more they win, the better positioned they’ll be for having the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The A’s have lost eight of the last nine times a lefty has started against them, and lefty starters have a 2.32 ERA in those games.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin frequently has to leave some of his best power – Adam Dunn, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt and/or Josh Reddick on the bench to get the lefty-vs.-righty matchups that he wants.

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A’s react positively to loud pregame oration from chaplain

Nate Freiman was one of many A's who liked what he heard from team chaplain Donnie Moore.

Nate Freiman was one of many A’s who liked what he heard from team chaplain Donnie Moore.

The game-winning homer hit by Josh Donaldson in the 10th inning Sunday had competition for the loudest, most impactful noise of the day in the A’s 8-6 win over the Phillies.

Before the game there was Donnie Moore, the A’s team chaplain. He dipped into his persona as a motivational speaker to give the A’s some fire and brimstone in an effort to help the club get itself out of a collective funk.

The A’s had lost 26 of 38 games, and time is running out in the season. Oakland either has to win now or spend the winter mulling over perhaps the greatest freefall in baseball history. The A’s were six games up in the AL West at one point and had the best record in baseball.

Now Oakland is trying to find a way to earn one of the two Wild Card entries into the playoffs. Six teams have more wins than the A’s 85.

Moore runs the A’s Sunday chapel sessions, but upon occasion the former Tennyson High quarterback will be given leave to address the whole team. Sunday was one of those.

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