If Grant Balfour can have a moment of reflection and stay calm, we all can. (Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE)

A Losing Streak, September, Panic, And You

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Subtitle: How to Keep Irrational Thoughts From Entering Your Brain

It really wasn’t that long ago (3 days) that the A’s had just finished a week of complete and utter dominance of the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox en route to a 9 game win streak that began in Tampa Bay the previous weekend.  Then came Monday, Labor Day, and what a fitting holiday it was as the A’s labored against the Angels and failed to truly punish the typically inconsistent C.J. Wilson.  Instead the Angels punished Tommy Milone and cruised to an 8-3 victory.  The streak was over, and that quickly the attitude of the A’s and all their fans went from cloud 9 to DEFCON 3.  The A’s hadn’t lost a series since visiting Kansas City in mid-August, and were in danger of losing their first in September.  Jarrod Parker wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t bad either and avoided major damage to keep the A’s within striking distance.  The bullpen had other ideas, and the Angels ultimately won easily.  The A’s had lost the series, but could still avoid the sweep.  Let’s just say it didn’t go that way, and I’ll try to keep this focused on baseball and not the horrifying injury to Brandon McCarthy in today’s game.  The A’s let Dan Haren off the hook because let’s face it, he was extremely wild on the mound and only gave up a single run.  The Halos once again blew the game wide open in the 9th capped by a steal of home by Maicer Izturis, and the sweep was easily completed.

It was ugly, but it also is just 3 games and the A’s still have 26 of them left.  The bottom line right now is that despite the A’s letdown after the prolonged winning streak, they still have a playoff spot.  Now their cushion to protect that spot is much thinner than it was just a few days ago, but it’s still there.  Looking at tonight’s scoreboard, the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays so they remain tied with the A’s atop the wild card standings, and the New York Yankees won to retake the AL East division lead so for the moment we don’t care about them.  The Tampa Bay Rays were on the losing end of that game against the Yankees so they failed to gain ground on anyone and remain 1.5 games behind.  The biggest mover of all the teams in question is the Angels themselves, who have moved to within 2.5 games of the A’s and Orioles in the wild card race.  It’s not ideal, but it is still workable.

It has been repeated over and over again just how challenging the A’s schedule will be throughout the month of September, and while that is definitely true, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.  The positive side of things is the simple fact that the A’s really can control their own fate.  Of the 6 different teams they face throughout the rest of the season, 5 of them are directly in competition with the A’s for a spot in the playoffs.  The team they aren’t in competition with is the Seattle Mariners and they have been something of a thorn in the side of the Athletics this season.  It won’t be easy, but if the A’s can right themselves and come through this month on the positive side it will have a direct correlation to whether or not they’re able to make the postseason, because their wins will equal their rivals’ losses.

It’s easy to react strongly, and perhaps it’s even understandable to do so with the ebb and flow of every game the A’s play, but it’s important not to forget about the big picture and the fact that there are still games left to play.  Yeah they looked bad, but say they put some runs on the board against King Felix on Friday night?  Everyone will be able to breathe a little easier.  If not?  Well, you know the drill.

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