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September 3, 2013

What You Need to Know

Taking Three Teams' Playoff Temperatures

by Daniel Rathman


The Labor Day Weekend Takeaway
As the Athletics won seven straight games at the tail end of the 2012 regular season to surge past the Rangers and capture the American League West crown, Coco Crisp went 10-for-25 (.400) with four doubles, a homer, and four steals on four attempts. It’s no secret that a team’s offense is more potent, and its win probability higher, when its leadoff man is hot. And as we head into the home stretch of the 2013 campaign, few major-league hitters are swinging the bat better than Crisp.

After sweeping the Rays over the three days preceding the holiday, the A’s entered Monday’s matinee versus the Rangers trailing Texas by one game. There were 26 games left on each team’s docket, six of them head-to-head meetings, and in a year with relatively few playoff berths up for grabs, this horse race was only getting started.

Now, 137 games are in the books, and the A’s and Rangers are tied. Bob Melvin’s squad withstood a formidable test during the last 10 days of August, going 4-3 on a road trip to Baltimore and Detroit and then taking advantage of the scuffling Tampa Bay lineup at home. The Rangers flew in on Sunday night, and whether or not the Bay Bridge closure—which ended last night—was to blame for their malaise, their bats were rendered just as dormant as the Rays’ in the key moments of game one of three at the Coliseum.

Dan Straily worked five innings for the home team, holding the visitors to three hits, one of which was a two-run home run by David Murphy. That was all the damage the Rangers would do to the second-year right-hander—and, in fact, all the damage they would do on the afternoon. Dan Otero stumbled into a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth, but Lance Berkman lined out and Murphy grounded out to second. The Rangers had the tying run on first in the eighth inning, but Ryan Cook struck out Mitch Moreland and Berkman lined out again. Grant Balfour wasn’t sharp in the ninth, but with two on and nobody out, Jurickson Profar grounded out to first, Ian Kinsler flied out to right, and Adrian Beltre grounded out to third to make the A’s 4-2 win official.

The A’s got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning, which Yoenis Cespedes kicked off with a long ball. Alberto Callaspo doubled with one away and crossed the plate on a single by Chris Young, who sprinted all the way to third on an error by Leonys Martin and then was gunned down at the plate after stumbling on his way around the third-base bag. The Rangers pulled even on Murphy’s big fly, but Crisp put the A’s back on top in the very next frame.

Outfielder Michael Choice, fresh up from Triple-A Sacramento and making his big-league debut as the designated hitter, reached on an error by Beltre. Two pitches later, Crisp clanked a meaty fastball off the left-field foul pole, bringing home both Choice and himself. The 335-foot homer was upheld on review.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (09/03)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (08/30)
Next Column >>
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (09/04)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Fo... (09/03)

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