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

I meant to write one of these this last year, but honestly, the AL West was no more than a shadowy idea in my mind, even as late as late September. This year, with an actual magic number countdown (something we saw not once in last year's comeback), I thought it would be fun to see how exactly the A's managed to wrest the AL West out of the grip of the Rangers for the second straight season. Congratulations to the Oakland Athletics, your 2013 American League West Champions!

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How The (2013 AL) West Was Won - September

There were a lot of great months in the A's 2013 playoff run, but none better than the month of September, that saw the A's overcome a 2-game deficit to eventually win the Division and finish the season five games ahead of the Rangers, who were knocked out in the play-in Wild Card game. The A's played strong when it counted, and as Texas faded, they took complete advantage; even Texas' end-of-the-season winning streak was too little too late to dethrone the 2-time defending American League West Champions, and that's why the Oakland Athletics will be playing tomorrow.

The A's started September by finishing a sweep of the Rays, obviously catching them, too, at their weakest point of the season. A lot of the A's success--winning the Division with a full week to spare--came by playing Texas and Tampa Bay at exactly the right time. Had the AL West and Wild Card gone down to the wire with the A's still in the mix, they would have had to win out to keep pace with the other teams, who won the remainder of their last games to get into the playoffs, even briefly. Before the penultimate showdown between the A's and the Rangers, the A's first took out the Rays, in game #136. Nico has the call: Joe Maddon thought he would try as many different pitchers as possible, so the A's decided to score in as many creative ways as they could and the end result was a 5-1 victory, a sweep of Tampa Bay, and just 1 game between Oakland and Texas in the standings as the Rangers come to town. This left the A's just one game back, as they geared up to face the Rangers.

Unlike previous experiences with the Rangers, the A's did not waste this opportunity, fighting hard to take two out of three, and climbing back on top of the AL West. Game one was recapped by Lev Facher, who coaxed the A's to a tie: A solid five innings from Dan Straily, home runs from Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes, and scoreless relief work from Dan Otero, Brett Anderson, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour have the A's back in a tie for first place. In front of 23,495 frenzied fans on a sun-splashed day at the Oakland Coliseum, a few costly mistakes on Texas' part and a nerve-wracking yet effective four innings from the bullpen gave the A's a 4-2 win, and seemingly all of the momentum in the AL West race. There really wasn't anything "seemingly" about it. Aside from losing the following night, the game also handled by Lev Facher: Well, the A's are back in second place. An all-around uninspiring evening from the green and gold has the A's a game behind the Rangers, making the rubber match tomorrow afternoon almost a must-win with three games in Arlington looming on the horizon. Bartolo Colon was both mediocre and unlucky tonight, while the A's offense stalled repeatedly with runners in scoring position. The bullpen wasn't great, either. Heard this one before?, the A's would strap on their playoff underoos and decimate the rest of the month, winning series after series. They finished the Rangers' series with a win, as baseballgirl tells us, the game also marking the return of Daric. Barton. The plucky A's, winners of eight of their last ten games, shook off yesterday's loss like it didn't even matter, and continued their trend of stomping all over ace pitchers as they dismantled Rangers' starter Yu Darvish and gutted the rest of the Texas bullpen to the tune of 11-4. The big blows of the game were home runs off the bats of Moss, Donaldson, and Coco. Oh, and also: Daric. Barton. This tied the A's and Rangers for first place, with barely 20 games to go in the season. Hold me.

While Texas faced off against Anaheim, the A's tried once again to make Houston their September cushion. They lost the first game; however, and it wasn't pretty. Lev Facher tells us all about it: The A's are back in second place, looking up at the Texas Rangers, after a 3-2 loss to Houston tonight at the Coliseum. The Astros have now taken three of the last four games in Oakland between the two clubs, and the A's once-perfect record against them has now fallen 12-4. Back went the seesaw, dumping the A's into second place, again. But luckily, the A's remembered they are actually better than the Astros, and this is an all-important 4-game series, so they pulled it all together. Alan Torres called the game: It was necessarily pretty, but the A’s got it done today after failing to do so last night. A.J. Griffin was solid early, swerved around in the 3rd and 4th, and finished with a bang. Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie provided most of the offense, with Chris Young contributing both some bad and good luck. With this, and the Angels finally taking a game from the Rangers, the A’s finish out the day in sole possession of first place in the AL West by a half-game. The third game saw another A's win--guaranteeing at least a series split--as Nico handled the recap: Now one thing you need to know about the Houston Astros that they will never rest until they have made as many outs on the bases as they possibly can. Barnes broke for 2B against Doolittle on a pickoff throw to 1B, but made it thanks to an offline one-hop throw by Daric Barton. So then Barnes -- with 2 outs, mind you, and Villar at the plate -- broke for 3B as Doolittle kicked towards 2B. Doolittle calmly stepped off the rubber, fired to 3B, Donaldson slapped the tag on one of Barnes' 83 tattoos, and the inning ended. The A's had a chance to take 3 out of 4, and they would do just that. Lev Facher describes the scene in detail: Brandon Moss picked up the first Oakland RBIs of the day with his double to left field, which scored Eric Sogard and Stephen Vogt, both of whom reached base on singles. Yoenis Cespedes ripped a single to left, scoring Moss, and Alberto Callaspo drew a walk immediately thereafter. Daric Barton hit yet another single to center field, scoring Cespedes and bringing up Seth Smith with two on and two out. Smith, who's struggled mightily since the All-Star Break, broke the game open with a three-run home run to right field, giving the A's a 7-1 lead that would be more than enough for a win. With Texas losing more than they were winning at the time, this series would mark the very last time the A's ever flirted with second place. Taking a 1.5 game lead on the Rangers, the A's never looked back; not then, not now. It would just take another couple of weeks to officially crown them with the AL West title.

The A's flew out to Minnesota for their next series (the first time they had seen the Twins all year), where they dropped the first game, as Josh Willingham had his way with the Athletics, says Lev Facher: The A's lead in the AL West could very easily have grown to three games tonight. It also very easily could have been trimmed to just one. Oakland blew a late-inning lead in Minnesota, while the Rangers almost pulled off a huge comeback in the bottom of the 9th against Pittsburgh. In the end, the A's lead in the division held at two games, and I, for one, will take it. The A's rebounded in the next two games, and would win the series. Game 2 involved a lot of runs--all of them green and gold--as the A's scored a total of 18. baseballgirl explains: In what would turn out to be a much-needed laugher in Minnesota tonight (minus one very large injury scare), the A's had the perfect opportunity to play their bench, rest their starters for the day game tomorrow, and win the game with little effort after their 10-run fourth inning. With the Rangers' loss in Arlington, the A's have opened up a 3-game lead in the West as they steam towards the end of the season, looking to represent the AL West in the playoffs. Do you remember July 28th of this year; the very height of standings porn, where we checked the scoreboard to find the A's a full six games up on the Rangers? Barely 10 days later, on August 7th, the lead was gone entirely; the Rangers had tied the A's for the Division lead. They wouldn't stop there; by August 23rd, the Rangers held a 3.5 game lead over the A's, and things were looking grim for our heroes. But something funny happened on the way to September; the A's took on the powerhouses of the American League and clawed back, and tonight they suddenly find themselves with a three-game lead in the AL West with one more to go in this series before taking on the Rangers head-to-head this weekend. The series finale proved that the A's didn't use up all of their runs the day before, as Alan Torres starts to see the finish line: Behind another big third inning, the A’s took a lead they would both add on to and never relinquish. A.J. Griffin had an impressive outing – but of course allowing a solo HR, his only blemish – over 7 one-run innings. In winning two of three games in Minneapolis and now up 3.5 on the Rangers, the A’s are in prime position to really make it hard for Texas to overtake them for the division lead. With the series win, and the Rangers poor play, the A's had opened up a 3.5 game lead, just in time for the final showdown between the two AL West candidates, with Texas needing a sweep to upset the A's. Despite the benefit of hindsight, the West was very much in question right up until this series.

There was a sweep, all right, but it wasn't Texas. Our plucky little Oakland A's, battered and bruised, underdogs to the core, stormed into Arlington and swept the Texas Rangers, all but ending the Rangers' AL West hopes, and grabbing the title for themselves. It wasn't easy. Or stress-free. Let's start at the first game. The A's jumped out to a huge lead, and they ended up winning by a single, tiny run. baseballgirl with the Friday the 13th call: There wasn't one moment in the first seven innings that I didn't think the A's nine runs were more than enough to win. How can you blow a 7-run lead in six outs? Finding out cost me a refill of wine, large clumps of hair, most of my fingernails, and I'm still not sure my heart or blood pressure would register within normal limits. Although the offensive heroes of the game will be listed as the red-hot Cespedes, Donaldson (whose father saw him play for the first time tonight), and Moss, the true hero of tonight's game was Sean Doolittle, and by extension a ballsy Bob Melvin, who left Doolittle in to close the ninth, where he struck out the side for the all-important save; the only member of our vaunted trio of late-inning arms that we really wanted in the game when the season was on the line. The second game was equally stressful, as the A's hung onto a 1-0 lead all the way to the end. Trust me when I say that never happens in Texas. Or trust Alex Hall, who recapped for us, and our ownership of Yu Darvish: Yu Darvish just can't catch a break against the Oakland Athletics. He's tried being really good, and he's tried being really bad, but nothing seems to work when he faces the A's. He's lost all four of his starts against them this season, and today's game marked the second time this year that Oakland has beaten him by a score of 1-0. If you're going to own any pitcher in the league, I guess you couldn't pick a better one than the ace of your biggest rival's rotation. The A's completed the sweep in much less dramatic fashion, but it was the first single-digit magic number, as we counted down from 8 on. Nico made the call: Jarrod Parker was supposed to be the starting pitcher but he got sick. Yoenis Cespedes was supposed to start but nagging soreness in his shoulder kept him out of the lineup. That meant there was space on the mound for Tommy Milone and room in the OF for Chris Young and Josh Reddick. So Milone tossed 5 IP of 1 run ball to earn his 11th win, while Young and Reddick were instrumental in the A's scoring, and that depth may be all you need to know about why the A's are now a robust 6.5 games up on the reeling Texas Rangers with 13 games to play. Oakland's magic number to clinch the AL West is 8. With an almost insurmountable 6.5 game lead on the Rangers, the A's left Arlington to go back home to face the Angels.

I've said it once; I'll say it again, I'm glad we matched up against the Rangers and not the Angels, because despite the A's red-hot September, they still lost 2 series to the Angels. This was one of them. Billy Frijoles recapped the start by flu-ridden Jarrod Parker: Jarrod Parker continued heaving from the mound as the Angels teed off and CJ Wilson quieted the A's hot bats. But who cares? Magic number down to 7! The A's would win the second game, with pie!, as Lev Facher takes the magic number down to 6. Coco didn't get the walk off, but he did work a walk after an epic, 10-pitch battle with Kohn. That left the bases loaded for none other than Daric Barton, who was essentially tasked with getting the ball out of the infield, as the Angels brought Cole Calhoun in from right field to play first base and spread the four original infielders throughout the rest of the diamond. After taking the first pitch up and in, Barton proceeded to take two uncharacteristically huge cuts at pitches, took another ball to push the count to 2-2, and then took another huge cut on a 95mph four-seamer that he didn't come close to touching. Josh Donaldson came close to suffering same fate after falling into an 0-2 hole, but in the end, he did what an All-Star and MVP-caliber player does — he hit a line shot to the gap in right-center field that Mike Trout had no prayer of getting to, allowing Jemile Weeks to trot home for the game-winning run. The A's would drop the finale of the series, but as it goes, they still dropped the magic number after a Rays comeback against Joe Nathan and Texas (foreshadowing, perhaps?) baseballgirl explains: Just another day at the ballpark, where everyone collectively says, "Thank God this wasn't the playoffs!" Whatever, it's a loss. They happen to good teams over the season. More concerning however, continues to be the bullpen struggles of first Ryan Cook and now Grant Balfour, who have pitched a full season, yet need to be a whole lot sharper than they have been, and they need to do it in about 10 days. But with Texas' loss, it didn't matter; the A's magic number was down to 5!

The A's played the Twins again, en route to reducing their magic number even further, now to 4. They would win the first game, as Alan Torres recaps: It was a wild game, but the A’s ultimately emerged victorious on the strength of their second-half power surge that they showed off in the sixth and eighth innings. In the sixth, pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo tied the game, and Jed Lowrie would provide the big blow, a two-out three-run homer that for a time appeared to be the difference maker. However, after the bullpen wobbled too far, and some BABIP help, the Twins would tie it before Coco Crisp provided the crowning blow in the 8th, a two-run shot to wrap up the scoring for the evening. They would also win the second game of the four-game series, as baseballgirl tells us: Who would have thunk it? The A's end game #154 with a magic number of 2, which means that they can clinch the AL West as early as tomorrow. Of course, since the A's play during the day, and the Rangers at night, selfishly for fans, it would probably be more fun with the clinch on Sunday. But I know no one really cares; all we care about is clinching the AL West, and you know what? With a 7 1/2 game lead--the A's biggest since 2006--they are on the cusp of clinching the AL West. Just like that, the magic number was 2. The A's would win the next day as well, says Alex Hall, as they won the series, and would look for the four-game series sweep, and the clinch. The Oakland Athletics are the hottest team in the American League, and even Mother Nature couldn't steal their thunder on Saturday. She did her best to rain on their parade, but, after a two-hour delay, the A's improved their AL-best September record to 15-5 with a convincing 9-1 victory over the Twins. Things were looking cloudy at the end of August, but Oakland now finds itself one win away from clinching its second straight AL West title with a week left in the regular season. Magic Number 1! And with the four-game series sweep--well, technically with a Rangers' loss earlier that day, but this sounds better--the A's clinched the American League West and became back-to-back champs! Nico called this one: Thus, Sonny Gray took a 6-1 lead to the 3rd, as Kansas City loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th. But Mike Moustakas popped up. And George Kottaras bounced into a force at home. Oh noes! No clinchies yet. By the way, the Twins got a couple runners on base against Gray, so anyway...KC's Justin Maxwell crushed a walk-off grand slam to eliminate Texas from AL West contention -- and moments later Gray served up a 3-run HR to Oswaldo Arcia to put the Twins right back in the game, 6-4. And the fans were standing, cheering, celebrating, because the A's had just clinched the AL West. Perhaps a bit anti-climactic that Gray gave up the 3-run HR when he did, but let the good times roll! There you have it: The 2013 American League West was won, by the Oakland Athletics!

More games were played to end the season, as the A's tried to overtake the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the AL, which would have matched them up against the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays instead of the vaunted pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers. Pick your poison, I guess. The A's won the first against the Angels, lost the secondand the third. They clinched home-field advantage against the Tigers on game #160, playing the Mariners, no small feat, and no small difference. They lost the second game, and lost the overall record to Boston the next day, but they would finish the season on a winning note.

And now, here we go! A's vs. Tigers, rematch of 2012. Tomorrow night. Hold on to your butts.

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How The (2013 AL) West Was Won - 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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How The (2013 American League) West Was Won - July

The A's opened July at home against the Chicago Cubs, as the NL Central visits continued. They would win 2 out of 3 games, while Texas was taking on division-rival Seattle. The A's took the first game of the series, and it was a good one. Lev Facher explains: This team gets more and more fun to watch every single day. Derek Norris won the game with a three-run homer and the A's had an all-around great night from the batter's box to compensate for one of A.J. Griffin's worst starts of the season. Oakland is now 49-35, and is alone in the AL West driver's lead, 0.5 games ahead of Texas. The A's would drop the second game of the series, falling just short of being the fourth team to the 50 wins plateau (to join the Pirates, Red Sox, and Cardinals), as baseballgirl has the call: Move along folks, there's really nothing to see here. You hate to see a pitching outing like this one wasted; close enough to still wonder "what if". What if Reddick catches the homerun as he nearly did? What if we just could have scored the elusive second run to tie the game? And then you remember that the Cubs had 12 hits to the A's 4, and you wonder how they scored three total runs.The A's would rebound in the final game to take the series, remaining a half-game up on Texas for first place. Alan Torres tells us all about the 1-0 win, and introduces Dan Straily : Dan Straily came back from AAA to make this start in place of Jarrod Parker, and picked up right where he left off and them some. Yoenis Cespedes, despite striking out twice in 4 PAs, made a pivotal outfield assist to keep the game scoreless and the Cubs off the board in the 4th. Despite not being able to figure Travis Wood, the A’s made quick work of Matt Guerrier in the 7th, turning a one-out single and a caught steal at 2B into one run on a passed ball by Wellington Castillo. The bullpen was able to hold on despite a specious call with two outs in the 9th and Alfonso Soriano on deck.

The A's hopped on a plane and flew to Kansas City to take on the Royals. Part of the fun of this recap is seeing what teams were good at the halfway mark, and matching that up against the eventual division winners. I think the AL West was a tremendously fun race, probably a little bit biased, but it did fluctuate so wildly until the very last week. The A's would win another 2 out of 3 in Kansas City, including the opener, where Balfour tied the record, and Milone had the game of his season. baseballgirl with the recap: Tommy Milone was picture-perfect for eight innings tonight, even better than Dan Straily in yesterday's contest. Josh Reddick created all of the offensive performance himself, and Grant Balfour bailed out Milone after he found a heap of trouble in the ninth inning, and the A's slam the door on the Royals to take the series opener 6-3. They would lose the second game in a sloppy performance. I handled that thread, as well: It's hard to really assign blame in this game, as just about every facet of the A's game fell apart at one time or another in the loss today. This was a winnable game if the A's just play their usual solid brand of baseball, but from their three errors in the field, to errors all over the basepaths, to the unusually wild pitching staff, this game was doomed to be a loss from about the fourth inning on; it just took eight innings for the A's to actually lose. They would bounce back again in the season finale (and the day we found out about the All Star slights), as Nico will tell us: On the mound, A.J. Griffin did not have his best game going, needing 105 pitches -- 2 of them hit out of the ballpark -- to get through 5 IP. However, Jesse Chavez earned his first major league save with 4 shutout innings in relief of Jerry Blevins, and even though the A's don't have a single position player worthy of the All-Star team, somehow they put up 10 runs in support of Griffin. This was the stretch when Texas won every game that Oakland did, so no ground was gained or loss. The A's kept their .5 game lead.

The A's flew to Pittsburgh for Game #90 this year, debuted Grant Green, and it's the first time where I genuinely thought that the playoffs would happen. This game was a playoff game from start to finish: Miracles were certainly Grant-ed today as Grant Green made his Major League debut and Grant Balfour saved his 23rd game this season, and 41st game of the streak, beating Dennis Eckersley's record and cementing our current group of A's into the records books with their historic predecessors. A sensational catch by Coco Crisp in the seventh inning won the game; without the catch, the save never takes place. And of course, to top it all off, was the brilliant 7 innings Colon turned out for his 12th win of the year. The A's repeated the 2-1 game the next night, as Nico explains: Brandon Moss' first go-around in Pittsburgh was not a joyous one, as his career stalled for the second time and by the time he left town he was ready to be sold for parts. Tonight he launched a 2-run HR in the 4th inning off of Gerrit Cole to provide all the runs the A's would need -- which is good, because it was also all the runs the A's would get. We also learned that Yoenis Cespedes would be invited to the All-Star Weekend, to participate in the Home Run Derby.  Lev Facher took the series finale, and tipped his cap to the Pirates: Francisco Liriano was on tonight. It's that simple. After waiting through a rain delay of nearly three hours, the A's offense couldn't get anything going at all against the Pirates' southpaw. Meanwhile, Tommy Milone struggled, and the Bucs came away with a 5-0 win. It's no surprise that Texas kept pace with the A's, and after the three-game series, the A's still held a .5 game lead as they welcomed in Boston; the last series before the All Star Break.

The A's dropped the first game of the battle of what would end up being the first and second place AL teams in 2013. The Red Sox were already in the top spot, but the A's climbed that ladder all summer; ending up just a rung behind the Red Sox. As we found out, it was also the first time since 2008 that the A's have had a winning record at the ASB. baseballgirl with the opener: To be fair, I did warn them. I said in the game preview that A's had to be all but perfect to beat John Lackey and the league-leading Red Sox in tonight's game, and despite some flashes of brilliance, mistakes ultimately sank the team tonight. It's beyond frustrating, in a game where Jarrod Parker clearly gave his all, and the A's struggling offense, who had gone almost 20 innings without scoring a run, had used all of their grit to tie the game while only managing three hits, the A's couldn't get out of their own damn way. Obviously this isn't the end of the world; it's the first time the A's will end up with a winning record at the All Star Break since 2008, they are second place in the entire American League, and they didn't even lose ground to the Rangers, who were handily spanked by the Tigers, or the Angels (same; Mariners), but it's irritating to lose to an obnoxious pitcher and even more to an obnoxious team, and even more irritating when it's entirely the A's own fault. Well, they probably could have left Dustin Pedroia in a flooded shower in the Coliseum and that might have helped, but aside from that, it's an all-A's blame tonight. But don't despair; the A's would rebound to tie the series the following night, in what was early-playoff atmosphere; a far cry from years past in July. baseballgirl with second call: Well, that's more like it! The A's beat the Red Sox in a thrilling game tonight to tie the series behind A.J. Griffin. They won't be the biggest story tonight in the Bay Area, but who cares? This is playoff-caliber baseball over in Oakland! Griffin was sensational in his eight innings, and Grant Balfour just keeps saving games. The A's scored single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, and while their offense is still relatively quiet, they are winning games.The A's would win the rubber game, and the series in the last game before the break on the strength of left-out All-Star Josh Donaldson, Nico tells us: Was there a better script for the day before the All-Star break than for Josh Donaldson to shine, and then shine again? The A's didn't have a hit through 6 innings, but what they had after 11 innings was a win and a 2 game lead over Texas. With the win, the A's increased their lead over Texas to two full games, and unlike years past, we all actually cared about this break.

Just for funsies, you should really go back and re-watch the Home Run Derby, starring Yoenis Cespedes. I remember being nervous that he wouldn't be able to replicate what he did in batting practice every day on the big stage, but as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about.. He was a highlight for the A's in a season full of them. The A's were also involved in the All Star Game itself, as Lev Facher explains: Grant Balfour pitched a scoreless sixth inning, and Mariano Rivera won the All-Star Game MVP trophy. Whatever American League team ends up in the World Series will have home field advantage. Let's hope that home-field advantage matters for the A's in about three weeks.

Back to your regularly scheduled program. The A's, who traveled to Anaheim after the break to face the Angels, took a while to come back from break; they dropped the first two games of the series. The way the Angels played the A's at times this year actually made me really glad they were out of the race from early on; I didn't want to face this team with something to play for. Here's a memorable night, where baseballgirl didn't feel like recapping the game, so AN did it for me:
Berry Jo: We should write it for you.
pam5981: crowdsourced recap...
Billy Frijoles:that's gonna work great
pam5981: Paragraph 1: WE LEARNED THE SARCHASM FONT.
Berry Jo: Paragraph 2: We swore at the umps and the Angel's players
pam5981 Paragraph 3: Baseballgirl got drunk off whipped cream vodka.
Berry Jo: Paragraph 4: AN Game thread was more entertaining than the game itself
mrod: "Colon should have started this game!!!!!!!"

Game 2 wasn't any better, as Nico tells us: The A's have scored 1 run since last Sunday. So...Yeah, that's not good. Don't worry: There's yet more expert analysis to follow. The A's would salvage the finale; in the words of Alex Hall: The stars of the game for Oakland were a small elf and a 40-year-old obese man. This is the coolest team ever. Despite losing 2 out of 3, and thanks to a 4-game slide by the Rangers, the A's would actually gain a game in the series, and lead the West by 3 games.

Enter the Astros. The A's tried hard to give up the first game, as Lev Facher recaps: This can't go on forever. No team plays another perfectly throughout the course of an entire season. But somehow, the A's keep on snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against the lowly Houston Astros. Tonight, it was an eighth-inning, two-run blast to straightaway right field from Josh Reddick that did the trick. And just when it seemed like the would keep the winning streak alive, Balfour had his first hiccup of the season, blew his first save after 44 consecutive, and the A's dropped their first game to the Astros all season. Lev Facher with the call: What can I say? It was the Astros. The A's had won 13 straight games against them, and they'd been pulling wins out of their pockets against them all season long. They had a two-run lead, and Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour primed and ready to go to close out the Astros in the final to innings. Blame me if you like for penning a winning recap before the winning had been done, but superstitions aside, the bottom line is that no MLB team — much less a contender like the A's — can play as sloppily as Oakland did during the past two games and expect to come away with two wins. As a matter of fact, the A's were probably lucky to come away with just one. The A's would rebound for the next game, and still win the series, as Alex Hall narrates this one: Coco Crisp, John Jaso, and Eric Sogard did the heavy lifting, which is exactly what nobody expected would happen. Winning 2 out of 3 from Houston kept the A's lead at 3 games over the Rangers, just in time for the Angels to come into Oakland for a four-game series.

The A's dropped the first game, as Alan Torres laments: On days like today, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders. That’s the best reaction any one can have after a game like this. Dan Straily allowed too many hits, the defense again left much to be desired, and the bats could just not get going against Angels starter C.J. Wilson. They will attempt to regroup tomorrow with Bartolo Colon on the mound, but then something interesting happens. The A's decided to play some baseball, and took the next three games. baseballgirlWhat more do we really need to say? Despite the nailbiting, the sloppy, the crazy and the stressful, the bottom line is that the A's won, the Angels lost, and more importantly, so did the Rangers. Somehow, even while this team is not playing their best baseball, the lineup is struggling at the plate, and the defense is racking up errors, the A's have climbed to a four-game lead in the AL West with win #60 tonight and their first double-digit hit game since July 7th. Nico for turn-back-the-clock day: The Oakland A's keep partying like it's 1969, only the team is good! Donning garish Charlie Finley era 1969 jerseys, the A's turned back the clock to more like 1972-74, parlaying excellent starting pitching from Ken Holtzman Tommy Milone, power hitting from catcher Gene Tenace Derek Norris, and an insurance run scored by the fleet footed Rick Monday Billy North Herb Washington Coco Crisp to come back and beat the California Los Angeles Anaheim -- oh you know who we played -- by a final score of 3-1. Nico also had the series finale: I'm so relieved that I had to scrap my original headline, which was "Parker Pitches Like Poo..." He did, but despite being down 5-0 early and despite Parker issuing 7 BBs in 5 IP, the Never Say Die A's came back to grab a season high 6 game lead in the AL West. It's unclear whether the A's could have pulled it off without some help from the Angels outfield, plenty of which they got at just the right times. While the A's won 3 out of 4, Texas lost all four games simultaneously, and the A's were able to run their lead to a gigantic six games; their largest lead yet. Everything was coming up Oakland in the waning days of July as the A's welcomed in the Blue Jays to close out the month.

Billy Frijoles handled the series opener, as the A's won their fourth game in a row: The Oakland A's finally had that laugher they were looking for. Toronto Blue Jays' starter Esmil Rogers, who actually had a respectable 3.74 ERA coming into this game, got walloped. The A's jumped on right in the first inning. Coco Crisp walked to lead off. Eric Sogard, enjoying his first ever entry in the 2 hole (ball SO GARD) reached on an E5 error (at 1st base). And then came Jed Lowrie, hitting in the 3 spot due to Josh Donaldson's recent struggles. All he did was single past Bautista on a tough slider from Rogers, and the A's were rolling. Cespedes continued to be white-hot, striking a sharp groundball triple that spooned the foul line all the way to the outfield wall, driving in two. Nice to see Cespedes flash his speed, power, and hit tool in one AB. Josh Reddick lauched a medium depth sacrifice fly that was enough to score Cespedes to cap off the scoring. 4-0 A's, and we were just going to the second inning. But the A's would drop the second and third games, unfortunate timing as the Rangers' season would start to pick up. Lev Facher with the second game: As good as the A's have been this season, they've seemed very capable of putting up the not-so-infrequent dud, such as last Thursday's 8-3 drubbing courtesy of the Angels. A similar fate befell them tonight, as the Blue Jays dominated Oakland, hitting two home runs and using three pitchers to shut out the A's and claim a 5-0 victory. And Alan Torres with the finale: The Blue Jays had one of the worst fielding days you can have as an MLB team. Their errors and lost balls in the sun led to two A’s runs. Unfortunately, that’s all the A’s would manage today against R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays bullpen. The A's would finish July with a record of 15-10, with a four-game lead in the AL West, with a showdown against Texas first on the docket for August.

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How The (2013 American League) West Was Won - June

The A's opened June after the opener of the A's/White Sox series, one that the A's would eventually sweep. They won the second game in true walk-off style, Alex Hall with the call: You know that you're rooting for a good team when you can watch them win a ballgame and still be disappointed in their performance. It's the kind of spoiled, entitled response that can only come from a fan of a quality ballclub, and I feel like a giant crybaby just for thinking it. Don't get me wrong; a win is a win, and I'm absolutely happy that the A's pulled this one off. However, it seemed like this was a battle of who could do more to lose the game, and the A's technically lost that battle by securing the victory on Josh Reddick's walk-off walk in the 10th. They would sweep the next day, as many bowls of cereal were given out. I don't like to brag, but the title says it all: WE HAVE A SWEEP, PEOPLE! The A's, who are rolling on a red-hot train right now, complete the weekend sweep of the White Sox , holding the Sox to just 3 hits today, and just 3 runs in the entire series, as Jarrod Parker continues his masterful turn-around this season. Coco Crisp ran his way to both of the A's runs, and Balfour slammed the door yet again in the ninth. With the three-game sweep firmly in hand, the A's moved to 10 games over the .500 mark (34-24), just two games behind the Texas Rangers.

Then the A's flew to Milwaukee, a rare appearance indeed, to play the Brewers. This game is wildly know as the one where Tommy Milone got two hits. Billy Frijoles with the recap: If the A's make the World Series, Tommy Milone will be the A's secret weapon. The A's starter came through in a big way tonight, throwing seven innings of two-run ball and smacking two legit singles (off two different pitchers!) to lead the A's to a 10-2 romp over the Brewers. The A's nearly pulled out the second game, as well, but in the first of some bullpen struggles, they couldn't hold off the Brewers. Ah, if you only knew, Lev Facher. This was the A's worst loss so far, but pretty much a good percentage of August can outdo it. Cespedes did hit two home runs in this one, but he couldn't save the 'pen. This may well be the worst loss of the year — blowing a three-run lead in the eighth inning to one of baseball's worst teams isn't going to cut it. I'd bet that Doolittle buys Griffin dinner tonight. The A's would win the series the next day as Alex Hall makes a six-pack joke: Drink it down, Athletics Nation. Oakland has secured yet another series victory, and this one went down oh-so-smooth. Last night, Sean Doolittle committed a party foul by allowing a bad team to come back in the late innings and snatch victory from the claws of defeat. Today, however, Bartolo Colon chugged through seven quick innings of work while Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss helped the A's score a 6-pack of runs en route to a victory in the rubber match against Milwaukee's best. After taking 2 out of 3 from the Brewers, the A's had trimmed Texas' lead to just 1.5 games as they headed into Chicago.

Winning in the Windy City, the A's finally retook the lead from Texas, and vaulted themselves into first place in the American League West, making a bid to stay there. Of course, we know they didn't; the roller-coaster was just getting started, but at least they hung around long enough to be in the position. They would win the first game against the White Sox, the day of the draft. Alan Torres with the call: As the newest crop of "Baby A’s" were being hatched by Beane, Kubota, and others, the A’s faced the same team they faced last weekend, the Chicago White Sox. Dan Straily would face a team in back-to-back starts for the first time in his career, and turned in an okay start. Over 7 innings, the 4th consecutive start in which an A’s starter reached that point in the game, he allowed 6 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 3. Of the 4 runs he allowed, 3 were with two outs in the 3rd inning. Meanwhile, White Sox starter Jose Quintana also allowed 4 runs, but allowed them in spurts; specifically, he allowed 3 solo HRs of the bats of Yoenis Cespedes (twice) and Josh Reddick. The A's would win the series with a win the following night, as baseballgirl explains: Rarely can a baseball game be summed up in two plays, but tonight has the good fortune of being one of those nights. Frustrated all night by Chris Sale, the A's offense could only manage five hits, but boy did they make them count. A grand slam by Josh Donaldson--the A's first on the year--and a homerun-robbing catch by Josh Reddick in the bottom of the ninth to preserve Grant Balfour's streak and the A's win would be the story of the night as the A's and Jarrod Parker win yet again. Even with the 2-0 start, the A's could only managed to split the series in Chicago, falling flat in their third game, right in the middle of Sean Doolittle's struggle-stretch. Remember that? Me neither. I hosted that game, as well: Well, it's bound to happen sometime. The A's can't win every game. But interestingly enough, in the A's last 22 games, the club has only lost four games, and two of them can be directly attributed to Doolittle. It isn't so much one run, as it is the bunches of runs, and today was his fourth poor outing in his last five. Today, with a little help from a bad call, he turned a 1-1 game into a 4-1 loss, very reminiscent of last week, when he sent the game against the Brewers to extra innings by giving up another 3 runs in a game the A's would eventually lose, and I really do wonder if something is going on. The first run he allowed today was a bad umpiring call; the runner never should have been on base, but he was hit hard again after that. The A's would end up with a series split as they drop two in a row. Nico, hilariously, with the call: Oh the south side of Chicago Is the baddest part of town And if you go down there you better just beware of a man named -- Hector Santiago? With the loss, the A's dropped again to second place, just in time to fly home to face the Yankees.

With our gift of hindsight as we recap these games, we can see that the three game series in Oakland stands up as the three games that perhaps the Yankees needed to stay in the pennant race the last week of the season. Clearly, there were a lot of other factors, but the fact remains: The A's swept the Yankees at home in June (capped off by another long extra inning game), and they, not New York, are playing in October. Billy Frijoles brought you the first game: The game had the makings of a potential pitchers duel between Bartolo Colon and Sabathia. Colon started off with a scary 27-pitch first inning that included a very uncharacteristic two walks. However, he was able to work his way out of the jam unscathed, and for the rest of the way held up his end of the bargain. Coco Crisp ensured that Sabathia wouldn't do the same, crushing the second pitch he saw for a laser home run straight into the left field BBQ Terrace. It was his 8th home run of the year. The second game was hosted by baseballgirl and featured a lot of Brandon Moss: The magical season of 2013 rolls on, picking up steam as the A's stay hot, hot, hot with just another win tonight, beating the Yankees, winning the series, and grabbing first place all for themselves following a Rangers' loss. Dan Straily holds the Yankees to just three hits, while Brandon Moss hits two homeruns for most of the offense. The A's will go for another sweep tomorrow; don't miss it! And then came the A's second-longest game of the year, only eclipsed by the 19-inning affair in Oakland. This one went 18 and ended after the A's beat Mariano Rivera in his swan song in Oakland.; the game called by Alan Torres: Yawn. Just your average unscheduled doubleheader today, as the A’s completed a four three game sweep of the Yankees at home. Jesse Chavez turned in a miraculous 5.2 innings of shutdown relief, and Nate Freiman delivered the late-inning heroics against Mariano Rivera, one of his boyhood idols. It is the second game this year that the A’s have won in double regulation. With the sweep, the A's took over first place, and added a two-game lead.

Then the Mariners came into town, a thorn in the A's side that they would really like to excise in this last series of the year. The A's dropped the first game, as baseballgirl explains: Despite a terrific night for Chris Young in the lead-off spot, replacing the banged up Coco Crisp, the A's are unable to muster any other sort of offense, and drop the one game they needed to win against the Mariners. With Felix and Iwakuma starting tomorrow and Sunday, things look bleak for our heroes. But, as they say, that's why they play the games. As Nico laments Henry Blanco, the A's were losing two in a row to lose the series to Seattle: There are a few things you need to know about Henry Blanco. The first is that he looks like he could easily pass for 67 years old. In fact, if Blanco told you he was 67 you would probably think to yourself, "Hmm...He hasn't aged well." The A's would win the finale; however, on the strength of Josh Reddick, as Alex Hall tells us: Well, it turns out that the A's totally can win 'em all. Or at least, the vast majority of 'em. They went on to post crooked numbers in the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th, ended Hisashi Iwakuma's scoreless streak at 31.2 innings, and cruised to a 10-2 victory to avoid a sweep at the hands of the 3rd-place Mariners. This club does not panic when it falls behind. The starters are able to settle down after allowing early runs and keep the team in the game, and the lineup is able to patiently mount comebacks one run at at time. Despite only winning one of three in the series, the A's actually gained a game on Texas, who ended their own series with a six-game losing streak, just in time for another A's/Rangers head-to-head match-up.

With an opportunity to create some space in their lead of the West, the A's headed to Arlington for a four-game series, and well, they didn't really show up, losing 3 of the 4 to allow Texas to shave off most of the AL West lead. The A's lost the first one, prompting Billy Frijoles to hate Texas: Games like this are why the late, great A's broadcaster Bill King famously refused to travel to Arlington. In a game that was billed as a matchup of potential rookie of the year candidates, both starting pitchers exited early while Nelson Cruz and the Rangers bullpen did just enough to escape with a victory, snapping their six game losing streak. The won the second, as the A's beat Yu Darvish again, says Lev Facher: The A's put some distance between themselves and the Rangers in the early AL West race — they now lead the division by three full games. Jarrod Parker allows just two runs on three hits through seven innings, while Darvish isn't as effective as Yu'd expect. The A's could have increased the lead, but they folded like a cheap deck of cards, says Alan Torres in the third game: Nothing really went right for the A’s today. They fell behind early on a Lance Berkman home run, briefly took the lead back on a Chris Young home run to center field, then coughed up 7 consecutive runs. Tommy Milone allowed too many hits and struck out too few Rangers to be successful tonight. They will attempt to salvage a series tie tomorrow morning. Looking for a split as the best case scenario, the A's also lost the finale. The report was brought to you by Alex Hall: All I want for Christmas is an RBI. With that flat performance, the A's led the Rangers by one game, as they flew to Seattle.

The Mariners really played the A's well this year, taking another 2 of 3 at home against our green and gold. The A's won the first game, baseballgirl giving us hope: The A's hit four more homeruns in tonight's game as they recorded a hard-fought and much-needed win in Seattle against a tough Mariners' team. Bartolo Colon continued his campaign for the All Star Game and the Cy Young as he finished another gem, only allowing a homerun. but a massive bullpen implosion lost the second game for the A's; also called by baseballgirl: I don't wanna talk about it. Seriously, I really don't want to talk about it. What else can I tell you? The A's rallied from a 2-0 deficit to turn it into a 5-2 lead, practically had the win in hand, and they blew it ten ways to Sunday with some really, really shaky bullpen work. The Mariners rallied against Jerry Blevins and Ryan Cook, scoring 3 and 2 runs respectively off our usually solid 'pen. The only shining moments of the bullpen came from Jesse Chavez, who replaced Dan Straily in the fourth inning and shut the Mariners down, in line for another relief win until Blevins and Cook showed up, and Doolittle, who shut down the Mariners after Cook exited the game. But barn door, horse, and all that jazz. When all was said and done, the A's lose 7-5 in a game they should have won, and are frankly lucky to be tied for first place the way they have played this week.They would drop the next game--and the series--to fall back into second place. Nico tried to make us feel better: Kendrys Morales' pinch-hit 3-run HR off of Grant Balfour, giving Seattle a 6-3 win in 10 innings, capped the A's road trip in style: A 2-5 journey that saw them lose games started by Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm, Josh Lindblom, Aaron Harang, and Jeremy Bonderman. but it didn't help. The A's would then welcome in the Reds for a quick 2-game series against a National League team we haven't seen very often.

And, well, we swept. baseballgirl with the first game: Our A's are back in the win column (and in a virtual tie for first place!) as their offense made the best use of seven hits ever, turning those hits into seven runs. Both starting pitchers were terrible tonight; neither made it out of the fifth inning, and it's really only a matter of baseball luck that Milone only managed to give up the three runs he did. and baseballgirl with the second: The A's sweep the brief series against the Reds as they win again today, this time on the back of A.J. Griffin, who did nothing more than toss a complete game, two-hit shutout; in easily the highlight of his baseball career.With the sweep, the A's were still tied for first place.

The A's would close out the month with the Cardinals, another team they don't play often, and would win the series, dropped just a half game out of first place, right around the halfway mark of the season. Nico reported the first game: Nothing like having an ace in the hole, and it also doesn't hurt to have an offense that grinds out at bats as well as any team anywhere. And in the 2nd inning tonight, that was quite literally true. Bartolo Colon, now 7-0 in 7 starts since turning 40, started the game by retiring the first 13 batters. For an inning, he was matched by 22 year rookie Shelby Miller, who needed just 10 pitches to retire the A's in the 1st inning. But in the bottom of the 2nd, Miller threw 51 pitches -- which is the most any pitcher has thrown, in any inning this year, anywhere Alex Hall with the second, as a terrifying moment happened when Parker went down: The afternoon started out promising, as a full house packed the Coliseum for Coco Lean Bobbletorso Day. A pair of aces took the mound, with Jarrod Parker facing Adam Wainwright, and it looked like we would be treated to a classic pitcher's duel. Both starters were dealing through the first three innings.Oakland's visions of victory were flushed down the toilet in the 4th inning, however, when Parker went down with a hamstring injury. With two outs, he threw a pitch to Allen Craig and crumpled straight to the ground, clutching his right leg. He raised back up to his feet, but Oakland made the smart decision by calling Parker's bluff and going all-in with their bullpen for the rest of the game. That's just the luck of the draw, folks; better to be cautious in June than to gamble with Parker's long-term health. Nico closed the series--and the month of June--with a solid win, and started the campaign for the All-Star Josh Donaldson: In the bottom of the 7th, Josh Donaldson gave the bullpen an insurance run after watching Trevor Rosenthal, and his 95-98MPH fastball, blow away Cespedes and Moss. Undaunted, Donaldson picked on a fastball away and drove it into the right-center field seats. Earlier, he also made a tumbling catch on the tarp of a foul popup, and saved a run with a diving stop for an inning ending 5-3 putout. All-Star game, anyone? The A's would finish June 16-11, just out of first place.

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How The (2013 American League) West Was Won - May

May opened up with the finale between the A's and Angels. The A's tried to sweep, but as Billy Frijoles tells us: At the end of a physically, mentally, and emotionally grueling homestand, the A's just didn't have enough left in the tank to pull off yet another miraculous come-from-behind victory, dropping the series finale to the Angels 5-4. If only they could have accomplished a non-miraculous play in the first 8 innings, the tale might have ended differently. However in the larger view, a series win and nice bounceback from an atrocious road trip isn't so bad. The A's headed in to New York to face the Yankees. A.J. Griffin was the first to take the mound; Zonis with the gamethread: The game started off with a bang, with Adam Rosales swinging at the first pitch of the game for a solo shot. His first HR of the year, his first Leadoff AB, first Leadoff pitch, first leadoff HR. From there, it was A's all the way. The A's would drop the second game, according to Alex Hall: (Just read the recap) That game pretty much sucked, and I don't have a lot to say about it, so I'm going to recap it in haiku form.The A's would win the series the next day, and Nico highlights the play-by-play: There's a tenet in baseball: Never put the winning run on base. There's also another tenet: Sometimes, listen to your gut instead of your tenets. With the A's leading 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th, Grant Balfour got the first 2 outs but then surrendered a single to Brett Gardner, followed by a wild pitch. Even though the count was 1-1 to Robinson Cano, Melvin ordered an intentional walk to Cano. Visions of Cano flicking a walk-off HR to the short porch in RF gave way to visions of how many holes Vernon Wells has in his swing. Balfour found one, blowing a 2-2 fastball by Wells and giving the A's a series win in the Bronx. All of this was made possible by Josh Donaldson's "fair or foul...FAIR!" blast in the top of the 8th, breaking a 4-4 tie. It was the A's 3rd HR of the day on an afternoon where the A's went 0 for 9 with RISP, 6 of those failures coming after lead-off doubles in the 2nd and 9th. So after taking 2-3 from the Angels and 2-3 from the Yankees, the A's found themselves with an 18-14 record, 2.5 games behind the Rangers.

Then, something ugly happened (I did warn you that this season was a roller-coaster!). The A's would be swept in a four-game series in Cleveland, en route to a 5-game losing streak that would take them under .500. Billy Frijoles: Jarrod Parker and Chris Resop combine to allow 7 runs despite a generous strike zone, and the A's drop the opener of the four game set against Cleveland. Alan Torres: For my money, this was the most frustrating loss of the year. Tommy Milone threw a gem of a game, allowing only 5 hits and striking out 5 over his 7 innings. Twice he stranded leadoff doubles, and also survived a blown call by the 2B umpire on an obvious tag from Eric Sogard in the Cleveland half of the 5th with two outs. The only run he did allow was on a double error by Brandon Moss and Eric Sogard. Moss, again ranging too far to his left, booted the ball towards Sogard, who made a poor decision to throw and a bad throw behind Milone, who attempted to get back and cover the bag. A Yan Gomes sacrifice fly to deep CF scored that only run. Things only got worse in the third game of the series. You may remember this one as "the one where Adam Rosales was robbed". baseballgirl with the call: Bob Melvin never should have left the field. He should have been kicked out (he was, promptly), but he should have protested the game on the spot and made the umpires call security to carry him out. He was hot, and no one could blame him. Instant replay only works if you are willing to get the call right, and from everything I have read, there was ample evidence that the replay showed a homerun. In a good moment this year for AN, but bad for the A's, who were swept, you are apt to find a hidden message written into the recap by Alex Hall, A's Fit In 9-2 Loss Before Lunchtime. With the four game loss, the A's drop to .500, four games behind the Texas Rangers.

They would lose 5 in a row, and drop below .500 as they opened in Seattle with a loss. Nico explains: Sometimes just one defensive misplay and one bad pitch are enough to do you in for the evening. That's pretty much how it went for the not-so-swinging A's tonight. The would finally win a game the following night, as Lev Facher recaps the A's getting back to .500: Home runs, good starting pitching, and good defense win baseball games — it's no mystery. Tonight's victory was gratifying mainly because the A's had all three of those things and still barely hung on, because losing games that you should win, by the book, really sucks. But wins are wins; with this one, the A's improve to 19-19, [and] climb back into 2nd place in the AL West. Unfortunately, the win didn't help the series any; the A's dropped the next game to lose the series. baseballgirl on the Mother's Day game (not one of our best): A's Moms Embarrassed, Bored, Searching for Alternate Programming. Back under .500, the A's were now 6 games behind the Rangers, and about to face them head-to-head.

Continuing their losing series streak into the middle of May, the A's would drop 2 of 3 to the Rangers at home, although they did take the first game. baseballgirl sums up: Now see this? THIS was a game worthy of the A's in a battle for the AL West. The A's beat the Rangers tonight by combining a fabulous starting pitching performance with some real, honest-to-goodness offense as they cruise to a 5-1 victory to close the gap on Texas and get back to .500. But the A's just couldn't get on a winning streak, and lost the next two games. Lev Facher: In this recent cold stretch, the A's have lost a lot of games where they've simply been outplayed, haven't shown up, and haven't been the better team on the field. Tonight wasn't one of those nights, though, and that's what makes this loss so frustrating. Bartolo Colon turned in a quality start, Josh Donaldson had the third four-hit game of his career, and the A's put together a great extra-inning rally, and still came up short. The series finale was handled by Alex Hall: Every so often, A's fans are blessed with the opportunity to watch a weekday day game. It's rare, but sometimes the Wednesday day game is televised. Unfortunately, this was one of those days.The A's continued their annual May swoon with a rather pathetic 6-2 loss to Texas, dropping them two games below .500 and seven games behind the Rangers in the AL West. Given that Oakland was 13 games back at one point last year before ultimately winning the division, I'm not terribly worried about the standings right now. Still, though, it was a lot cooler when they were in first place last month. Indeed, the A's had sunk to 2 games under the .500 mark and trailed the Rangers by 7 games, which happened so long ago, I didn't remember that large of a deficit until I looked back. Things would still get worse for the A's on their off-day, as the Rangers and Mariners both won, and the A's were unceremoniously dumped into third place. Luckily, the Angels stumbled out of the gate (and for many months after that), so aside from a brief appearance by Seattle, this season was by and large a two team race. And yes, the A's once trailed the Rangers by 7.5 games.

And that was our 2013 lowest point; the dip in the roller-coaster. Showing a great amount of resilience, this team turned it around, and started actively chasing the Rangers. With the Kansas City Royals in town, the A's put together one great game after another. baseballgirl with the opener: For six innings tonight, it looked for all the world that Jarrod Parker would end up the hard-luck loser in yet another 1-0 game, despite a brilliant start, as the A's offense was stymied by James Shields for most of the night. Racking up 9 strikeouts and only 6 hits against Shields in his complete game outing, the A's managed to get two hittable pitches, and would capitalize on both. And baseballgirl with the second game: For the second night in a row, the A's collect a 2-1 win behind a strong starting pitching performance and timely hitting. The offense had only six hits yesterday and only five tonight, but they made them count, and in front of a sold-out crowd, hungry for A's fireworks, the A's came through. Why hello there, Miss .500. Don't you look particularly fetching tonight. We certainly have missed you. Back at .500, the A's climbed over the mark with the series sweep, hosted by Nico, It came down to Mike "Moose Tacos" Moustakas against Ryan Cook with runners at 2B and 3B with 2 out in the 9th, and of course the count had to go full. Moustakas bounced to 2B and the A's were back over .500. As Shakespeare would say...To sweep, perchance to dweam! So the A's were over .500, and had cut into the Rangers' lead by one game, setting up for another head-to-head match-up, with the Rangers leading by 6.5 games in the West.

This time, the A's went to Arlington, looking to extend their lead, and they would open the series with a commanding win. Billy Frijoles with the game: The A's got 15 hits and 8 walks (yay!), yet left the bases loaded in a staggering four innings (wtf?). Leaving that many on base probably won't work tomorrow against Yu Darvish, but I'm not here to pick nits. The A's hit well, pitched well, ran well, and thoroughly beat down the division leaders. And oh yeah, four game win streak. A's nation should be very happy. Believe it or not, the A's would extend their winning streak to 5 by beating the Rangers' Yu Darvish the following night, as told by Alan Torres: There are some rare feats in baseball. Once or twice a year, someone throws a no-hitter. Another couple times, someone hits for the cycle. But even rarer than both of those is a 1-0 victory by the away team at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Since its opening in 1994, this has been known as a place of horrors for the A's and any other visiting team. The A's once lost a game 17-16 in 2000 that they led 15-7 at one time. Bill King famously did not travel on road trips to Texas at the end of his career. He hated the heat and the crazy "alcoholic-filled nightmare" games. Spoiler alert: This was not the only time this year that the A's would beat Darvish. The A's tried valiantly to sweep the series, but they would have to settle for 2 out of 3, and the series win. The series finale was hosted by Alex Hall: This game started really poorly. Then it looked promising. Then it sucked again. Then the A's lost. But with another series win, the A's shaved the lead to 5.5 games, holding a 25-23 record.

Onward to Houston, a welcome team to play in the midst of the storm of April and May. The A's had started 6-0 against the Astros so far on the young season, and continued along these lines in Houston. The first game was a sure-loss turned into a dramatic win by the Hometown Hero, Chris Young, in his best game of the year. baseballgirl tells the story: It looked for all the world that the A's would finally drop a game to the Astros after a disastrous bottom of the fifth inning, but Chris Young, who would go 3-5 in the game, saved the night with a tremendous homerun in the top of the ninth inning that turned a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 win. The second game was hosted by Alex Hall, Tonight's game went a little bit differently. It is brought to you by the letters R, B, & I, because every single hitter in the lineup drove in at least one run and the A's recorded more runs than runners left on base. Whereas many of the victories in the last week have involved late-inning comebacks and lots of solo homers, the A's put this one away early (and then added some solo homers anyway, just for fun). The A's would sweep the series the next day. Nico tells us all about it: 0 BBs, 0 runs. That was Bartolo Colon's 7 innings of work today in a 6-2 win that pushes the A's to 9-0 against the Houston Astros, and 28-23 overall. With their sudden resurgence, and their newly-built 5-games-over-.500 lead, the A's knocked another run off the Rangers' lead, and cut it to 4.5.

The A's flew back home to take on their rivals against the Bay, the San Francisco Giants in a 4-game series, important to both teams at this point in the season. Things went very well for the A's. Billy Frijoles took the series opener: For the second straight start, Dan Straily showed that this game is not played on paper. Matchups be damned, Straily just went ahead and outpitched Madison Bumgarner, carrying the A's to a 4-1 victory over the Giants in the Bay Bridge opener. His line tonight was impressive: Six efficient innings, one run, and only one walk. This performance coming one start after a sterling seven shutout innings against Yu Darvish. baseballgirl handled the second game: You know those games you watch all the way through where you swear your team is leading by 10 runs the entire game since they had the bases loaded all of the time and had really pretty homeruns and doubles flying all over the park? And you're all smiley and happy, and your team is playing well, and your starting pitching is once again awesome, and then you look up and see your closer warming up for a save, and you're like, how can this game be a save opp; that's just crazy, but then your struggling shortstop who made a great play in the top of the eighth hits a homerun in the bottom which sort of takes the pressure off your closer, who has pitched a great deal of his saves in the last 15 games, because the team just went ahead by four and you're reasonably sure he won't lose the game and he doesn't? Yeah, tonight was kind of like that. The A's won the third game, as well, which would give them the series win, baseballgirl with another back-to-back: Hot mess, people. That about sums up tonight's game, but who cares? We have a real winning streak! The A's, winners of 6 in a row and 11 out of their last 12, have moved eight games over .500, and a mere two games behind first place, after being 5.5 back exactly one week ago. Now that we can finally breathe, after our A's staved off multiple Giants' comebacks after wasting a plethora of baserunners, let's take a look back at how we ended up winning this game 9-6; a score that belied how incredibly close this game was. Although the A's would drop the series finale--a game they could have won--3 out of 4 was enough to win bragging rights in the Bay. The recap should make you smile; thank you Alan Torres: Today's frustrating game aside -- I sure felt like smashing a bat over my thigh Bo Jackson style like Torres did in the 8th after a K by Pat Neshek - the A's still took 3 of 4 in this home-and-home affair. Whatever Bay Area baseball bragging rights come with this series reside in the East Bay until 2014. Or who knows, maybe these teams will meet in the World Series. Personally, however, I'd much prefer the Giants leave the postseason baseball to the A's. Spoiler alert: That, they did. After the big series win, the A's held a 31-24 record, and had climbed to within 3 games of the Rangers.

The A's would close the month with the opener against the White Sox at home, a 3-0 lead in one of the best starts of the year for an A's starting pitcher. Lev Facher with the call: Bartolo Colon turned in easily the A's best pitching performance of the year — he threw a complete game shutout, allowing only five hits and finishing the game in a neat 2:04. Josh Reddick made his presence known in his first start back with the big club, also. The A's ended May way better than they started; they went 16-12 in the month, held a 32-24 record overall, and remained 3 games behind the Rangers.

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How The (2013 American League) West Was Won: April

I meant to write one of these this last year, but honestly, the AL West was no more than a shadowy idea in my mind, even as late as late September. This year, with an actual magic number countdown (something we saw not once in last year's comeback), I thought it would be fun to see how exactly the A's managed to wrest the AL West out of the grip of the Rangers for the second straight season. Congratulations to the Oakland Athletics, your 2013 American League West Champions!

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