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Game 155 wrapup: A’s watch Rangers win, then prepare to go out and lock down AL West crown

The A’s were perfectly willing to let Kansas City shoulder some of the work in the American League West Saturday.

The Royals were down 3-0 to Texas after the A’s finished taking care of Minnesota 9-1 when a Rangers loss would have secured the West title for Oakland.

That being the case, none of the A’s players or coaches left the Coliseum clubhouse. The lockers were all covered by plastic sheeting to make sure the worst of a champagne celebration didn’t get into the players’ and coaches’ lockers.

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Game 148 wrapup: Moss, A’s impressed by Darvish; Magic number at 10; Rangers accomplish none of their goals so far; Balfour says all credit to Bartolo

Brandon Moss homered in the first inning the last time he faced Yu Darvish, a two-run shot that led to what would become an 11-4 A’s win back on Sept. 4.

So perhaps it should have been no surprise that when Moss faced the Rangers’ ace in the first inning Saturday, he’d unload with a run-scoring double.

The difference this time was that there would be no scoring on either side, and the A’s would claim a 1-0 win that would move Oakland to 5½ games in front of Texas in the American League West. The A’s magic number to win the West — any combination of 10 A’s wins or Rangers losses would give Oakland the title.

It never occurred to Moss that his hit would produce the game’s only run.

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Game 146 wrapup: It’s time to let Moss play against leftties; Donaldson likes A’s plan for success; Young soars to .201; Balfour finally back in action

Are the A’s about to play the Texas Rangers, their last competition in the American League West title fight, with one arm tied behind their back?

Maybe. The Rangers are scheduled to start two left-handed pitchers, Derek Holland on Friday and Martin Perez on Sunday, against the A’s.

Oakland generally sits lefty cleanup hitter Brandon Moss against left-handed pitchers, and the A’s have had some success doing so. Nate Freiman has had a big year against left-handed pitching at .314 with four homers and 22 RBIs, and Freiman, a right-hander, is the usual starter at first against lefties.

There are times to throw away the numbers, however, and this may be one of them. Moss is an impact player, and more now than ever. The A’s are 13-4 since Aug. 26, going from 2½ games behind Texas to 3½ games in front of the Rangers in that time.

The driving force? Brandon Moss. He’s a .356 hitter in those games with five homers and 17 RBIs, an average of an RBI per game although he’s only starter 13 of those games.

He didn’t play Thursday when the Twins threw lefty Scott Diamond at Oakland and the A’s came away just fine with an 8-2 win. But since Aug. 26, in the limited time Moss has had against lefties, he’s been much better than his .216 season average against them.

Specifically he’s 5-for-10 with two homers and five RBIs.

Moss isn’t going to ask to play against lefties. Ask him, and he’ll say that he hasn’t hit well enough to earn the right and that it’s all about the team winning and “it’s not about whether it’s hard for me to sit and watch.’’

Ask manager Bob Melvin and he’ll say he doesn’t know yet what his lineup will look like. But Moss has stood up and been counted when the A’s needed him to be The Man. A couple of swings from Moss in games Friday or Sunday could be the difference between winning and losing for Oakland.

And the A’s very much need to win to keep the Rangers at bay.

“If I play, I play,’’ Moss said. “This (platooning) is what we’ve done for two years, and it’s worked pretty well. It’s about what we have done, not about what I have done.’’

Moss was slogging along in the minor leagues last June when the A’s pulled him back to the big leagues for one last shot. Since then he’s hit 46 home runs in less than a season and a half, a figure that is tied for the 12th-best total over that stretch in the Major Leagues.

He’s immensely grateful for the chance the A’s have given him.

And that explains, at least in part, why he’s not going to push his case to play.

“When you think of where I was last year and where I am now,’’ he said, “obviously I’m very appreciative of the chance I’ve gotten. I’ve got 100 percent confidence in the team and the (front office) staff to make the right decisions.’’

That’s the company line, too.

But it’s difficult to see the A’s putting their best lineup forward against the Rangers in a series Oakland needs to win and not see Moss a part of it.

 

–Josh Donaldson says the A’s don’t have to do anything differently against the second-place Rangers this weekend to move closer to another playoff spot.

“Pitching and hitting is what it’s about,’’ the third baseman said. “We’ve done that the majority of the year, and when we have, we’ve done fine.’’

Donaldson was in the lineup at third Thursday less than 20 hours after being hit on the right hand by a pitch. He singled, walked twice and scored a run in five plate trips. Defensively, he made a pair of above-average plays, getting plenty on the throw with his injured right hand.

“At this point of the year,’’ he said, “it’s going to take a lot to get me out of the lineup. It was a little sore, which I expected, but I’m going to play.’’

 

–Chris Young, who generally plays only against left-handers, got a start against one Thursday and had a double and a triple, although both of the hits came against right-handed relievers.

The two hits got him over .200, all the way to .201, for the first time since May 25, when he was hitting .207. It’s been a tough year for Chris Young.

“I feel like I’ve been swinging well,’’ Young said. “Today some balls found some holes. It’s not about the numbers anymore, not at this point of the season.

“It’s about winning games, just winning games. Our season depends on that.’’

 

–Grant Balfour, talking before Thursday’s game, said “we aren’t there yet’’ when asked if it was possible he was getting too much time off. Balfour hadn’t pitched since Sept. 6 before throwing the ninth inning Thursday.

After the game the Oakland closer was talking as if the long layoff, his tired arm notwithstanding, was perhaps a little too long.

“I felt good,’’ he said. “But you do need to be out there more consistently to have your command. But it went OK, and I’m ready to go.’’

And he’s looking forward to the three games this weekend against the Rangers.

“I don’t think about three games,’’ he said. “I just think about the next game. Tomorrow is the most important day for us.

“We’ve played well to put ourselves in good position going in. Now it’s up to us to make the most of it.’’

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After the Twins, Rangers series looms large for A’s

It will be interesting to see how the A’s play the final game of their series in Target Field.

They are coming off their biggest blowout of the season, an 18-3 win over the Twins Wednesday. And on Friday they start their final series of the season against their competition in the American League West, the Texas Rangers, in Arlington.

With those kinds of bookends, a day game like this could get lost in the shuffle.

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The best in AL West? Depends on your point of view

The force in the American League West is clearly either the A’s or the Rangers.

The team with the advantage depends on the point of view of the analyst.

“They are the team to be,’’ Rangers’ manager Ron Washington said of Oakland. “They are the division champions.

“I don’t expect them to go away. I don’t expect us to go away.’’

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Game 111 wrapup: Cruz decision huge factor in A’s, Rangers battle in A.L. West down stretch

The Rangers left Texas feeling good about their chances in the American League West.

After taking two of three from the A’s, the Rangers are in better position now than the A’s were last year when Oakland roared from behind to take the division title on the final day of the season.

It may be false optimism, however.

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Have the A’s gotten into heads of Rangers, Darvish?

Have the Oakland A’s gotten into the heads of the Texas Rangers?

Well, maybe.

It’s one thing that the A’s took the American League West by storm last year, winning six of the last seven games against the Rangers to win the West title by one game.

It’s another that the A’s were seven games back on May 15 this season and have stormed into a three-game lead in the division entering a four-game series that starts tonight.

And then there’s the case of Yu Darvish. He’s the Rangers’ best starting pitcher, but coming into his start Tuesday he is 1-3 with a 3.81 ERA against Oakland.

And, asked Sunday about facing the A’s, he sounded torn between being confident and being wary.

“I don’t think I have any difficulty facing them,’’ he told the Texas media. “It’s like facing a new team every time, because the condition of the team varies from each time I face them.’’

Well, yes, the A’s have made changes up and down the roster during Darvish’s time in Texas. But Oakland will mostly be healthy and have its roster intact heading into this series.

Asked about the significance of the series, Darvish wouldn’t make much of it.

“It’s only June. It’s too early in the season to be thinking about those things,’’ he said. “I don’t really have anything to say other than we’re going to have a meeting again and try and figure out how to win.’’

That sounds like something you say when the other team is in your head a little.

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Schedule inequities on display this week with A’s hosting Yankees in New York’s one trip West

There will never be a time when the three American League West teams located on the eastern rim of the Pacific Ocean – the A’s, the Mariners and the Angels – won’t have troubling schedules.

They are about 1,500 miles from the other two teams in their division, Texas and Houston, and further still from the rest of the American League venues.

The question we pose here today is why the schedule makers insist on making things worse than they already are.

The Yankees, who come to town for three games beginning Tuesday, are in Oakland as the middle stop in a three-city West Coast swing. They’ve been to Seattle, and next they head to Anaheim.

The Orioles have already had a three-city junket to the West Coast. The Red Sox, in July, and the Rays in late August and early September, will do likewise.

Such a schedule makes it easy for those teams, minimizing the amount of mileage each accrues and leaving them with just two cross country flights for the AL West portion of the schedule – one to the West Coast and one back to the East Coast. With a day off mid-trip and another after after, it’s as close to a piece of cake as schedule makers can devise.

How many of the West Coast teams have reciprocal deals? None. The A’s, the Angels and the Mariners each must take three separate trips to say they’ve visited those same four cities. Oakland, for example, had Tampa Bay and Boston on an April trip, but their trip to New York was coupled with stops in Cleveland and Seattle. The trip to Baltimore later in the year will also include a stop in Detroit.

The city breakdown for the Angels and the Mariners is a little different, but the basics are the same. The Angels may have the most ludicrous of trips to visit one of those four East Coast cities, heading to Seattle and Milwaukee before making it to Tampa Bay.

It’s subtle, but it’s East Coast bias at a substantial level. The three West Coast teams are always going to have to fly the most miles, but by this kind of discriminatory scheduling, the Major League Baseball makes it worse than it has to.

There was a time in the 1980s and 1990 when the A’s could generally count on a three-city Baltimore-Boston-New York trip, but as the number of teams have expanded, the number of divisions has increased to three and interleague play has become season-long, that seems to have gone.

It should return, because the West Coast teams have enough built-in scheduling issues as it is. The A’s, for example, have five different trips to the Eastern Time Zone. And with the addition of Houston to the AL West this year, there are a total of six stops in the state of Texas for each West Coast team.

The West Coasters would be getting a break if they could play the Rangers and the Astros as part of a combined trip, but that hasn’t been deemed important. The A’s had one Texas-Houston trip this season, but that’s it and the other four stops will be combined with trips to other cities.

The Angels have it even worse. They have no conjoined Texas-Houston series, so they have to fly to into and out of the State of Texas six different times. That’s a joke.

You can bet that Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t see the humor in it. It’s a good bet that he, A’s manager Bob Melvin and Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge would supplicate themselves at the altar of MLB in New York if they thought it would bring about any change.

There are always going to be schedule inequities with the bulk of Major League Baseball teams concentrated in the Eastern and Central time zones. But it’s time somebody in the scheduling department of the commissioner’s office did something to level the playing field a bit.