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