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Game Thread #25: A's vs. Orioles

The ice-cold A's turn to A.J. Griffin (2-1, 4.50 ERA), desperate for a win on what should be a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum. Baltimore will counter with Chris Tillman (0-1, 5.23 ERA). Oakland needs a win badly. Can this team come through?

A.J. Griffin, to the rescue? Let's hope so.
A.J. Griffin, to the rescue? Let's hope so.

Expectations change everything. I'd bet that never before has the A's fan base been so anxious about a game played on April 27 against a slightly above-average AL East team. That's not to mention the fact that the A's are 13-11 and have been without their best player — Yoenis Cespedes — for a full two weeks. Objectively, it's hard to be too upset about the results this team has produced.

But here we are. It's the A's vs. the O's, on April 27, and it almost feels like a must-win game. Why? Because Oakland burst out of the gate looking like the best team in the American League, winning 12 of its first 16 games. Now the A's have lost seven of their last eight games, and need wins today and tomorrow to avoid losing their third consecutive series.

So — why are the A's losing? My theory is simple, and YonYonson did a great job of detailing it in his post earlier today — when Yoenis Cespedes plays, the A's win. When he sits, we lose. Unfortunately, he's been sitting, and we've been losing. Thankfully, today should be the last game before he gets reactivated.

A.J. Griffin has been very good and very bad at different points this month. I'm done trying to predict how A's starters are going to pitch this season, though. It's impossible. It wouldn't surprise me if A.J. turns in 8 innings of five-hit ball, and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets tagged for crooked numbers in the first three innings and gets bounced early.

The A's can expect some good fan support this afternoon, after two sub-20,000 crowds at the Coliseum on Thursday and Friday. It's Reggie Jackson Bobblehead Day, and the first 10,000 to show up will be rewarded with the 1973-styled desk toy. To boot, it should be a warm and clear afternoon in Oakland and the Warriors aren't playing 100 yards to the West, which definitely contributed to yesterday evening's lackluster attendance of 16,944. Last I checked, Bleacher, Plaza Reserved, and Value Deck tickets were sold out, all of which are good signs for a nice turnout today at the O.Co.

As usual, against a right-handed starter, Bob Melvin has the Oakland lineup stacked with lefties. Only third baseman Josh Donaldson and left fielder Chris Young will bat right-handed today against Tillman. That should serve as a reminder of how lucky the A's are to have the type of versatility that they do — Buck Showalter tried to do the same thing against Griffin, a right-hander, and still ended up with four righties in his order.