The A’s started Friday with a good idea of how they’d be structuring their starting lineup in the playoffs.
Then they played the first game of their final series with the Mariners and things changed dramatically.
The idea was that Yoenis Cespedes, who hadn’t been in left field since Sept. 13, was once again healthy, able to throw and ready to man his position. He’d play all three games in left this weekend to get himself ready for the playoffs.
That meant the resurrected Daric Barton was ready to play first base and Brandon Moss, who can play both first base and the outfield, was going to be the designated hitter. He was in Friday’s lineup as the DH, the first time all season that’s happened.
The fact that the A’s were able to clinch the American League West title on Sunday, the final home date of the regular season, worked out well for Billy Beane.
Securing the title meant the A’s general manager could stay at home and not join the team Monday in Anaheim for a possible clinching party there. Beane isn’t much for road trips these days.
As it was, Beane stayed mostly out of the clubhouse celebration Sunday and was uncontaminated by the sprays of champagne and beer that coated most of the rest of the members of his organization.
He was with his twins, Brayden and Tinsley, when I caught up with him far from the madding crowd.
No one knows better than Tommy Milone that his spot in the Oakland rotation comes with no guarantees.
Pitch well in the season’s final six weeks and he can figure he’ll keep getting the ball every five days.
Pitch poorly and the A’s have options. Brett Anderson, the A’s opening day starter, is on an injury rehabilitation assignment and is being groomed to return as a starter after a stretch in which the A’s thought the club might be best served with Anderson joining the bullpen.
No one had to sketch out the situation for Dan Straily.
The A’s bullpen was hurting from overwork and closer Grant Balfour was going to need a day off.
Straily needed to get deep into the game for the A’s to have a decent chance to win.
The right-hander had not even made it to the fifth inning in any of his previous three starts, but this time was different.
When you watch the A’s for any reasonable span of games, you get used to the fact that Grant Balfour doesn’t work particularly fast.
Sunday’s 27-minute, 37-pitch bottom of the ninth inning effort was unusual, even for Balfour.
He gave up a walk, an RBI double, then two more walks to load the bases before Jose Reyes grounded to second baseman Alberto Callaspo for the game’s final out.
“I was horrible today,’’ Balfour said. “I got the job done, but the guys were great.’’