The 2013 season has been a whirlwind of emotion and celebration, and we can expect the feelings of excitement to become amplified as we enter the final two weeks of the regular season schedule with an eye on the playoffs. The A’s currently lead the AL West by 6.5 games after a crucial three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers that has all but wrapped the division up. With the magic number down to eight and a seven game home stand, the last of the season, on tap, the A’s can clinch the division in front of their fans this week.
It didn’t look like it was going to be this secure when September started. The Rangers held a two-game lead in the division, and with each passing day it looked more and more like the A’s would need all 162 games to win the division again. However, while the A’s the suddenly sprang to life on offense and began pounding out runs, the Rangers found themselves in their worst funk of the season.
Although scoring runs in bunches has been a season-long problem for the Rangers, it’s still a shock to see as it is a direct contrast to the Rangers teams we’ve grown accustomed to over the past decade-plus. What was once an all-hit, no pitch organization has abruptly and unexpectedly become the exact opposite.
Just how bad have things gotten for Texas? They’re currently 2-11 in September (the A’s are 11-3). They failed to win any games in their six-game home stand, their first winless home stand of at least six games since moving to Texas in 1972, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Perhaps worst of all, Yu Darvish lost a 1-0 game for the fourth time this season on Saturday. The only other American League pitcher with at least three 1-0 losses in a season since the advent of the designated hitter was Dave McNally for Baltimore in 1973, the first season the DH rule was implemented, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Even though last season should have taught us that despite long odds nothing is truly over until it is set in stone, the simple truth is the A’s are playing their best baseball of the year while the Rangers are playing their worst. These are two teams moving in drastically different directions.
With 13 games left, the A’s need to go just 6-7 to equal last season’s win total. I predict them reaching at least 95, which is the number I envisioned in my head when the season began.
Right now the plan is to keep playing superb baseball while getting some key players back to full health for the playoffs.
Jarrod Parker and Yoenis Cespedes were scratched from yesterday’s game as Parker dealt with a stomach illness and Cespedes rested his sore right shoulder. Parker should be good to go against the Angels tonight. Interestingly, Michael Choice missed Saturday’s game with what he believes is food poisoning, so one can’t help but wonder if something is going around the clubhouse. No other players have reported any issues, so it shouldn’t be a worry.
Bob Melvin said Cespedes had been bothered by his shoulder for a couple of days since making a diving attempt on a ball in left field. Cespedes is scheduled for an MRI today and Melvin is confident he will be at least be available to DH.
Jed Lowrie came out of yesterday’s game after experiencing some soreness in his right hamstring. He first felt it tighten up during Saturday’s game. It isn’t believed to be serious, and Lowrie should be back in the lineup tonight.
Brett Anderson has improved after leaving Friday’s game with back spasms, and he could be available to pitch tonight if he’s feeling well enough.
With the A’s playing host to the Angels and Twins this week, and the Rangers dealing with the Rays and Royals, the likelihood of a collapse is slim to none. Anything can certainly happen, but all signs point to A’s fans having a joyous celebration sometime within the next week or so.
11: 57 am update: Looks like MLB is implementing new security measures at all stadiums with metal detectors being used at all entrances. Not sure what the impetus for this is. Stay tuned.