It was really quite easy to maniacally pound on the panic button after the first two games of this massive road trip at Comerica Park in Detroit. The A’s got walloped in game 1 as A.J. Griffin finally proved his humanity in his first MLB loss. Game 2 saw Brett Anderson cruising before a freak oblique injury took him out of the game and out of the rotation for at least the rest of the regular season, and by the way the A’s lost that game as well. So as we moved along to the series finale this morning it looked rather grim for the green and gold.
For the first half of the game though it looked like we were in for the same old same old. Tommy Milone was shaky at best, wiggled his way out of a first inning jam, ultimately let the Tigers get on the board first, and didn’t make it out of the 5th inning. But thanks to some shaky defense, and perhaps a little bit of anger and frustration on the part of the A’s they were able to storm back and tie the game. The Tigers retook the lead, but the A’s were having none of that. A 4 run 6th inning sparked by a laser shot double by Brandon Moss that scored Yoenis Cespedes got things rolling. Josh Donaldson drove in Moss with a solid single, and George Kottaras put the exclamation point with a line drive knuckle ball that baffled Austin Jackson in center field and scored 2 more runs. Any player with speed might have tried to go for the inside the park home run, and they may very well have made it. Despite a single run the Tigers got back on an Andy Dirks home run, the A’s were determined to put this game away. A Yoenis Cespedes sac fly, a bases loaded walk to Daric Barton (I know, shocking), and a bases clearing 3 run double by Seth Smith put this game well out of reach, and just for kicks Josh Donaldson knocked in Smith to put this game at its eventual 12-4 final score.
This is exactly what we have been talking about all season long, even before this team started winning games. They showed serious character even in losing efforts back then, but shortly the wins started to pour in. Since they put themselves into the pennant race, how many times have people attempted to bury this team as a flash in the pan? A team that was destined to come back down to earth? I’ve lost count. Throughout this run though, I’ve done my best to keep everything in perspective and realize there are peaks and valleys in these 162 games. So far the A’s have proven that theory to be spot on.
Phase one of this nightmare road trip is over, the A’s lost the series but they didn’t get swept, and that’s a positive. Most importantly though today’s win put the A’s back even with the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card race, and with the Texas Rangers win over the Los Angeles Angels tonight they are 4.5 games behind the two leaders in that race. The A’s remain 4 games behind the Rangers in the AL West race, it’s still a wide open race with the 7 remaining games between the two teams.
Now get this, I’m sure nobody realistically expected to be doing this but the A’s have a magic number now. I don’t consider any magic number worth looking at until it reaches single digits, and that number is down to 9. Just 9 combined A’s wins and Angels losses stands between the Athletics and officially making the postseason. It looks more and more likely that the A’s and Orioles could be on a collision course for a nail-biting 1 game playoff either in Oakland or Baltimore depending on who finishes higher. The A’s are in a great position to simply control their own destiny at this point. Say the A’s go 7-6 over their final 13 games, a very attainable record. The Angels can go 10-2 during that stretch in their final dozen games and still come up short. At this point the Angels need some help from the heavens to pull this one out.
Even with Brett Anderson out of the picture, the A’s are poised to finish the season strong. And the offensive display in Detroit Thursday may set them off on the right course to do just that.