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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brandon Moss has the last home run hit by an A’s hitter, on Tuesday.
Whatever happened to the A’s vaunted power?
Oakland’s offense came into Sunday’s series finale with the Phillies having hit just nine home runs for the month of September.
Admittedly there are eight games left to play, but the A’s are in a semi-historic home run drought that even a flurry of homers in the last week won’t cure.
For 20 consecutive months the A’s have hit at least 20 homers every month. And the A’s have been their most productive in recent Septembers, 44 in 2012 and 42 last year.
In the first 18 games of September the A’s have gone deep just once every other game.
That’s just not going to cut it.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson decided the risk of throwing to the plate in the eighth inning was worth it.
There are consequences to a low-output offensive streak like the one the A’s are going through that have nothing to do with run production, batting averages or working over a pitcher.
Once such showed up in the eighth inning Friday after a double and a grounder got the Phillies’ Freddy Galvis to third base with one out.
Oakland had a 3-1 lead at the time, and the club seemed very unlikely to score more. Knowing that, the A’s still didn’t pull the infield in, willing to give up a run to get an out on a ground ball.
The A’s got the ground ball when Carlos Ruiz hit a hard chopper directly to Josh Donaldson. The third baseman could have taken the easy out at first. Instead he gambled and threw to the plate where catcher Derek Norris caught the ball and slapped the tag on Galvis.
How long will the Coliseum, shown here with the adjacent Arena, be the A’s home?
It was exactly 60 years ago Friday that the A’s played their last game in Philadelphia.
The club, one of the original members of the American League dating back to 1901, would be start playing in Kansas City in 1955, leaving Philadelphia to the Phillies. And 13 years later the A’s would move to Oakland.
Getting to the present day, interleague play brings the Phillies to Oakland for just the third time in history.
The A’s aren’t in immediate danger of moving, but compared to the Phillies, who have been in the same city since 1883, the A’s are veritable baseball transients.
From one year to the next, you never need to wonder where the Phillies will call home. Not so with the A’s. And with just 10 games left on the A’s schedule, you have to wonder where the A’s will be playing in five or 10 years.
Jon Lester’s arrival has seen him pitch well while the A’s have struggled.
There are no simple answers for the Oakland A’s.
There are some simple truths, however.
One is that they need to loosen up at the plate.
Oakland hitters spent four months working the count, forcing pitchers into untenable situations, then waiting for the pitcher to wilt under pressure.
Now, it’s not like that.
“What’s going on with their hitters?’’ one Major League scout asked me Thursday. “I saw them a couple of months ago and they knew what they needed to do. Now they’re up there hacking at everything.’’
Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn’t good enough for a win.
If there isn’t a theoretical limit to the number of times the A’s can tell themselves they’re in good shape just because the American League Wild Card standings say they are, there should be.
By imploding in the ninth inning Wednesday, Oakland fell into a tie with the Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card derby, both teams at 83-68, two games up in the race over the 81-70 Seattle Mariners.
It’s technically true that the A’s can make their way in to the playoff by following the old Al Davis dictum, “Just Win, Baby.’’
The trouble is, they seem to have no remembrance of how to win, or even how to hit. Time and again in the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten brilliant starting pitching and have lost because the offense hasn’t made an appearance or because the defense had regressed to high school levels.
Already this month:
–Jon Lester gives up two runs (seven hits, no walks) in eight innings and loses 2-1 (Sept. 3)
–Jeff Samardzija throws scoreless ball for seven innings, turns a 1-0 lead over to the bullpen and Luke Gregerson gives up two runs in the eighth (Sept. 10).