The road that leads the A's to the post-season also offers an important tune-up, because while the Angels are not a playoff team this year, they promise two things oft found in October: good starting pitching every game, and the daily prospect of a tight low-scoring affair.
To excel in the post-season, the A's will need to beat pitchers of the caliber of Jered Weaver, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana. How fitting, then, that they will have to beat those pitchers to put the final touches on getting to the post-season. To play better than .500 ball in the ALDS, the A's will have to find, or prevent, that one run which can turn a heart-breaking 3-2 loss into an exhilarating 3-2 win. Head-to-head with the Angels, the A's have played a parade of tight, low-scoring games, and now find themselves just needing to play better than .500 ball in this series to end the AL West race once and for all.
So while an ALDS opponent figures to play better defense, and figures to boast an offense with more balance but less Vlad, the series starting tonight is a mission and a test wrapped in one. The mission is to clinch the AL West before the Angels get the idea that they can offset 155 games in the other 7. The test is to see if the A's can play better than .500 ball in a matchup that features excellent pitching and low-scoring nail-biters. The jury is out, because in the first 12 games against the Angels, the A's are 6-6.