How The (2013 American League) West Was Won AN Style - In August

There were some moments this season where the A's could have buried the Rangers long before the final week of the season, and the three game series between the two clubs to kick off August was the perfect opportunity. The A's had soared to a 6-game lead, gave two games back in two days, but still held a 4-game lead over the Rangers at the start of the series. I guess you can say that the A's were lucky to win one; a sweep might have been devastating. What really hurt the A's in this home series was playing so poorly in front of multiple sold-out crowds, who came to watch the 2013 brand of A's baseball. baseballgirl recapped the first loss: The A's are in a little bit of trouble. As is the case more often than not, the A's receive a lot of help, and are completely unable to capitalize on it. Tommy Milone was terrible tonight, but the A's offense certainly should have done more with what they were given. You receive 7 walks, combine that with 7 hits, and you sure should score more than 3 runs. All the momentum is with Texas right now, and the A's have to find a way to get it back. With the momentum swing, the A's once-robust AL West lead was cut to 2.5. The A's did find a way to win the second game, and seriously piss off Matt Garza in the process, which was also fun. Alex Hall tells us all about it: Momentum is a funny thing in baseball. One day, it seems like everything is going wrong and that the opponent has some magical momentum that will carry them to future victories. The next day, your team looks completely back to normal, everything is fine, and the momentum shifts back your way. Did it ever really exist in the first place? In this case, did the A's have to overcome Texas's "momentum" after losing three and a half games in the standings, or was it just a run-of-the-mill three game slump which the team easily bounced back from due to its undeniable talent? Whatever the answer, all that matters is that Oakland ended their short losing streak by beating the Rangers 4-2. They re-gained a game in the AL West standings, and now lead Texas by 3.5 games with 7 more head-to-head match-ups left. Unfortunately, the A's couldn't seem to create any more distance from the Rangers in the next game, as exactly the opposite of what we wanted happened. baseballgirl with the finale: Well, today's game was a microcosm of all of the weaknesses of the 2013 Athletics, at least after the All-Star break. They haven't been fielding the ball particularly well; they had another multi-error game today; their lineup cannot hit left-handed pitchers; they were shutout by Derek Holland this afternoon, and and A.J. Griffin is leading the world in home runs allowed; two more today. Check, check and check. The A's once-vaunted offense has scored 3.2 runs over the last 22 games, with no real signs of a breakout, and whether Texas scored four runs or just one, the A's would have still lost the game. No doubt this was a low point in an otherwise incredible season for the A's; in just over a week, their 6 game lead had shrunk to just two and a half.

The offensive woes continued into the next series, where the A's were swept by the Reds (who are out of the playoffs as of tonight) in a two-game series. The first loss was handled by Billy Frijoles: The Swingin' A's they ain't. The A's bats are mired in a funk, no doubt about it. This was a winnable game. The Reds' offense wasn't exactly on fire. Cincinnati starter Mat Latos was not terribly sharp. However, it's hard to win games when you only score 1 run. I suppose that it's easier than if you put up zero runs, as the A's did in Oakland on Sunday against the rival Texas Rangers. Meager progress! The finale of the short series saw the first A's hit by Alberto Callaspo (before he left injured), but the A's still lost. baseballgirl with the call: (deep breath) I think that everything negative about this team has been said in one of the three game threads today. Obviously, the A's are playing some craptastic baseball, absolutely no one is really hitting the ball consistently, and more concerning, most players are having just awful at-bats when they are at the plate. The outfield combination of Cespedes, Reddick and Crisp are sinking the A's quickly, as the A's will see their 6 game lead evaporate tonight when the Rangers beat the Angels at 7:05. The Rangers would indeed beat the Angels, and on the strength of Texas' 9-1 record--to the A's 4-6--saw the teams tied atop the AL West. The entire lead the A's built was gone in a week, and there was a moment of panic when even the Wild Card started to look good.

The A's solution to cure the early-August blues? Fly to Toronto to play a four-game set against the Blue Jays. Nico covered the opener, as the A's exploded for 14 runs, including 3 home runs by Josh Reddick. So the A's took only a 6-3 lead to the 3rd and that's when the Josh Reddick show began with a convincing blast into the RF seats off of Rogers. In the 5th, off of RHP Neil Wagner, Reddick hit possibly his most impressive HR, taking a pretty good fastball down and away and depositing it over the LF wall. In the 6th, with 2 runners on, LHP Juan Perez fell behind 2-0 and I actually turned to my mom and said, "Do you know what it means to 'sit dead red'?" Just as I finished my explanation, Perez threw a 2-0 fastball center cut and Reddick gave it a "swung on, gone" rip. The trio of taters jumps Reddick's season HR total from 5 to 8. The next night marked Sonny Gray's very first start, but the A's weren't able to win it for him. Alex Hall recapped all the action from the debut: While the defense was busy blowing plays left and right, the offense was busy squandering opportunities. Yoenis Cespedes singled in the 3rd, but was picked off to end the inning. Donaldson led off the 4th with a double and reached third base with one out, but Young and Reddick were unable to push him home. Norris doubled in the 5th, but was stranded. Finally, in the 6th, Cespedes and Donaldson reached second and third with nobody out, and it looked like the A's were in business. Nate Freiman plated Cespedes with a sac fly, but the bottom of the order was unable to capitalize any further. It was nice to get a run and cut the deficit to 4-3, but this was a chance for a crooked number and the A's blew it. The A's would take the third game, which was capped by a stomach-churning, nausea-inducing ninth-inning. baseballgirl explains: If you didn't have the pleasure (read: sarcastic) of seeing this one, all you need to know is that the A's won. I won't highlight the fact that their pitchers walked 11 Blue Jays (to be fair, the umpire might have had an interesting strike zone), their defense had its customary multiple-error game, and they stranded another million runners at third with fewer than two outs. Let's just say that the A's won, and Balfour got the save. All good? The A's would have a chance to win the wrap-around series the following day, and they would, as Billy Frijoles narrates: In a relatively sloppy, frustrating series, the A's managed to take 3 out of 4 from the Blue Jays behind a strong start from Dan Straily and some (gasp!) clutch hitting. Time to fatten up against the Astros and keep the heat on Texas. Despite the series win, and thanks to Texas' 8 game winning streak, the A's would finally drop out of first place, a game behind Texas.

The A's returned home to face the Astros, an easy foe for most of this season. Unfortunately, in this series, the Astros fought back, and would ultimately come away with the series win. Also, Chris Young got screwed. Lev Facher has the call with the first game: Chris Young came as close as one could possibly ever come to hitting a walk-off homer without actually doing it. But that doesn't change the fact that the A's offense and Bartolo Colon couldn't get it done against the Astros for a full seven innings.The next night was my watershed moment; where I really believed that the A's were falling out of the race. I could throw a lot of blame on the horrific strike zone by Angel Hernandez. I could also lament the lightening-striking-twice-in-the-same-place bad luck that saw yet ANOTHER game-winning homerun by Chris Young foiled, this time by an over-the wall catch by the Astros--the ASTROS. But if I'm going to lay blame, it's on the A's offense tonight, for a) not being able to score more than one run against THE ASTROS and b) for being as fundamentally unsound as possible.The A's would salvage the series the following night, as Alan Torres recaps: The A's came in emotionally battered and bruised from the past two days, but they didn't show it.  Indeed, in the first inning, after Gray set down the side in order with two K's, the A's initially caught a break.  Chris Young bounced one to short, where Jonathan Villar took his time getting the ball to first.  While replays showed that Young was obviously out, to me, that was the baseball gods giving the A's a freebie early.  Without the benefit of a bunt - gasp! - it would be Jed Lowrie who would double to right-center, scoring Young easily and giving the A's an early lead.  After a Josh Donaldson walk and Yoenis Cespedes K, Nate Freiman would smack at a high outside pitch and send it just inside the right-field line.  That scored both Donaldson and Lowrie, and made it 3-0 A's.  This would be part of a four-hit game for Freiman, who probably wouldn't be in the major leagues right now were it not for being a rule 5 pickup from the Astros.  His fortune, however, is also the A's fortune, as he's been a great little pickup for starting against lefties. The A's were lucky to remain only 1.5 games back of the Rangers after their series loss.

Enter the Indians, who embarrassed the A's earlier in the year. I recapped the first game of the series, and I really thought things might be turning around for the green and gold. Well, that was fun. I mean, if you like fun where you end up under the couch, hiding from the baseball game. But when all was said and done, you'd rather be an A's fan tonight than an Indians' fan, as the A's walked 9 Indians batters, and none of them scored. I don't recommend that course of action; usually the solo home run is better than multiple walks, but it's hard to argue with A.J. Griffin's zero earned run outing. Well, unless you like your starters to go deeper in the game than 5 innings and 104 pitches, anyway. The A's would drop the second game, the cars in the parking lot showing more fire than the A's offense. Lev Facher tells us about it: Despite receiving seven free passes (six walks and a hit by pitch), the A's failed entirely to capitalize. As a matter of fact, Oakland was no-hit by Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez through 5.2 innings, before a Josh Donaldson single drove in the only A's run of the night. The final score was 7-1, but that's not representative of the fact that this was actually a very competitive game until the 9th inning. But the A's would rebound in the finale to take the game--and the series. Nico explains: There were many heroes in today's 7-3 win over Cleveland, ranging from Alberto Callaspo's "goat (key error) to hero (key HR)" routine to "the entire A's bullpen" (4.1 IP scoreless), but perhaps no key contributor needed a big game more than Chris Young. Denied on the homestand by a foul pole and a Robbie Grossman, Young singled in a run, hit the tie breaking HR, and made a circus catch -- I hope they were taking notes next door -- to lead Oakland. With the series win, the A's moved just a half game behind the Rangers for the West lead.

Just as Cleveland pulled out of town, Seattle came right in. It's a good thing Seattle had such a poor season against the rest of baseball, because they too--played the A's tough. The first game was amazing, as I noted: Well, that worked out quite nicely. After Jarrod Parker threw 100 pitches over 9 innings, dodging his own error in the process, to shut down the Seattle Mariners, Brandon Moss picked up the sleepy A's offense with the sixth hit of the night; a walk-off home run to dead center field. The A's gain no ground as Texas destroyed Houston tonight, but they keep pace in the race for the playoffs. 38 games to go! But then they would lose the series to Seattle by dropping the next two, something they could ill-afford with Texas playing Houston. Billy Frijoles walked us through the heartbreak: Everything was going relatively smoothly, the A's were coasting along with a lead the entire game, Sonny Gray had flashed his beautiful curveball time and again en route to 7 innings of two-hit ball, and handed it over to our well-rested back end "Game Over" relief corps.  And then everything unraveled. More angst ensued in the season finale, as the A's dropped another to the Mariners. baseballgirl tried to soften the blow: Well, that was very unfun. I don't even know where to start with the A's right now, so I'll pick a point. You know that nervous feeling you had this morning when the A's didn't call up a backup catcher after Norris' injury? You know the worried feeling that something would happen to Vogt and our best hitter would have to play a rusty catcher, putting Donaldson at injury risk? Well, it happened today, only Vogt played hurt the last three innings to avoid the Donaldson situation. With the series loss, the A's fell 2.5 games behind the Rangers, and the A's looked in danger of a losing August, and losing the AL West, all right before the A's went on a tough East Coast road trip.

You know how they say it's always darkest before the dawn? Well, the darkest night was the opening game of the series in Baltimore. I had the first game: (drops head) I feel defeated. I know there are plenty of teams in MLB right now that would gladly trade places with the A's, even with the current struggles, but man, are A's games getting harder and hard to watch these days. Staked to a 3-0 lead, all Dan Straily had to do is stop walking batters to keep the A's in front, and instead, he gives up a 6 spot to the Orioles. And then the A's--they show a bit of grit, pluckiness and resilience--they come all the way back to take the lead, where it is Cook's turn to suck, and give up three runs. Yes, one was on an error by Sogard, and one was technically Chavez' run, but I call 'em like I see 'em. The A's scored SEVEN runs and lost. How are they ever supposed to win again? The A's would win the second game in a tense, 2-1 affair, as Alex Hall tells us: The Oakland Athletics entered Saturday with a three-game losing streak. What made that streak worse was that all three games featured early Oakland leads which were later blown. Today, the A's figured out how to avoid blowing another early lead: Don't take one. In fact, don't take a lead at all until the 9th inning. Can't blow a lead that you don't have! And then the A's dropped the finale to lose yet another series. Nico summed up the last game: Everything you need to go about today's game can be summed up by describing two pitches, one to each team. The first was to J.J. Hardy leading off the 2nd with the Orioles leading 2-1. Sonny Gray, pitching in front of family and friends for the first time, threw a 2-strike "chase" curve down and away well off the plate, and Hardy chased it. Somehow able to make contact, Hardy blooped it to RF and after charging it Reddick laid back to play it on a hop.Only this hop was no ordinary one: The ball kicked, quite literally, at a 90 degree angle towards CF allowing Hardy to turn a swinging strikeout into a double. That started a 3-run inning that gave Baltimore a 5-1 lead. Considering that the 2 runs off of Gray in the 1st came on two soft singles and a single away from the shift, this pretty typified Gray's short afternoon (3.1 IP, 8hits, 6 ER): Sure he made a few bad, or wide, pitches, but he could have had a heck of a lot better fortune. So the A's, now reeling, now 2.5 games behind the Rangers, faced the grim prospect of a four-game series against Detroit, and the formidable quartet of pitchers looming.

And then came one of the highlights of the year for the A's, unexpected, for sure. The A's destroyed Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer to win 3 out of 4 in the big series--and ALDS preview--and they would have swept the series, except for a bullpen implosion in the final game. Billy Frijoles called the first game: Wow, that was intense. The A's came into Detroit having lost four of their last five games, with a tenuous grasp on the second wild card and, with some help from the White Sox, still within striking distance of the division.  On one hand the Tigers, with the best starting staff and best lineup in baseball, is probably not the team you want to try to rest the fortunes of your season on.  On the other hand, beating a team like the Tigers feels that much better.  This win certainly felt like a season-saving victory, remaining schedule be damned. baseballgirl called the second, in a rain-shortened contest that was a whole lot less stressful than the previous night: The Detroit summer rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Oakland A's and their offense, who overcame Tommy Milone's rocky first inning to score 5 runs (3 earned) off Justin Verlander to take the lead just in time for the tarps to crash down on the field, prematurely ending a baseball game that the A's would likely have won anyway. The third game was also hosted by baseballgirl: So in case you missed it this afternoon, Texas just about hung double-digits on Felix Hernandez in their game, en route to a sweep of the Mariners, well before the A's started their game. Wouldn't it be nice to score 12 runs in a single ballgame against a great pitcher, we all lamented, as the A's got into the box, ready to pick up where they left last night. Well, the joke was on us, as the A's picked up their sticks and banged out twenty-one hits and fourteen runs against Doug Fister and the Tigers' bullpen, exorcizing demons along the way and probably raising their collective batting averages a tick. There is so much to sum up, but the offensive hero of the night was clearly Brandon Moss, who went 4-5 with 6 RBI in today's game. You know all those runners we've been leaving in scoring position? We might have rescued them tonight. I can't be positive, but I think the Detroit announcers, in one of about six rants of despair about our Oakland Athletics, said that we only left 4 in scoring position tonight. We sent a lot of them home; 14 runs will do that for us. And then came the season finale. Alex Hall had the toughest recap of the year, as he explained how the A's were one out away from a 4-game sweep against Detroit--the very team we will be facing on Friday--when Detroit pulled one out. When the fat lady finally got around to singing, the A's found themselves on the wrong side of a 7-6 decision. They had been leading for literally the entire game, since Jed Lowrie hit Max Scherzer's 12th pitch of the day into the right field seats for a two-run homer, and then it was all gone thanks to an epic choke-job by Grant Balfour and another crushing blow by Hunter The A's Killer. The series win boosted the A's confidence, but didn't change the standings; Texas still held a 3 game lead in the AL West as August wound down.

Thankfully, A's had no time to grieve the painful loss; they immediately flew home to take on the Rays, another playoff contender. They showed tremendous resilience in the game the next night and ace David Price; I recapped: The A's continue their success against the American League's ace pitchers as they take down David Price en route to a win over the Rays, taking the all-important first game of this playoff-deciding series, and moving into the number one Wild Card slot. Jarrod Parker continued his amazing streak of pitching, Kurt Suzuki welcomed himself back to Oakland, Jed Lowrie was the hero from both the plate and the field, Ryan Cook literally saved the game in the eighth, and Grant Balfour bounced back to record a one-run save in the ninth.They would end August with another win against the Rays, en route to a much-needed and well-timed sweep. Alan Torres wrote the final recap of August to Green Day, in honor of the fireworks theme: On the strength of 6.2 shutout innings from Sonny Gray, the A’s put away the Rays on Green Day Fireworks night at the Coliseum. He bested Alex Cobb, who pitched well, but the Rays offense has mostly taken a Deadbeat Holiday during an important time of the year for them. Here’s how it happened. With the great week, the A's ended August with a record of 14-13, another winning month.

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