OAKLAND — If you haven’t caught A’s playoff fever by now, you still have a chance to become infected over the next three days.
Whichever adjective you choose — surprising, exciting, thrilling — all are worthy in describing the 2012 Athletics.
Having covered sports since 1998, I’ve seen nothing like the season these A’s are having. The collection of rookies and young veterans might be cliché, but these A’s are a band of misfits — similar to the Giants of 2010 — but exponentially greater.
After the Rangers split Sunday’s doubleheader against the Angels, the A’s stand two games back in the American League West. Up next? A final series against the division-leading Rangers beginning Monday night at the Coliseum.
A’s closer Grant Balfour said:
“Who would’ve thought that this series was going to mean so much going into the first game of the season. And that’s why we play 162 games. A long season and it comes down to the last three games to fight it out and see who’s going to win a division and it’s fun for us.”
The A’s slogan has been “Blood, sweat, and pies,” as a reference to the whipped cream delights they smash into the face of any player who delivers a game-winning hit.
No pies on Sunday, but the green and gold kept with a consistent formula: Good pitching and timely hitting.
Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick both hit decisive eighth inning home runs as the A’s completed a sweep of the Mariners with a 5-2 win Sunday afternoon.
Teammate Josh Donaldson — who delivered a clutch two-run blast in Saturday’s game which forced extra innings — said the A’s have a penchant for late game heroics:
“Obviously we feel pretty good going into the late innings of the games. If it’s a close game we have a chance to take the lead at any point. Cespedes hitting a big homer there and then Reddick hitting a two-run homer. It’s what these guys have been doing all year and we’re looking forward to (doing) hopefully going down the stretch.”
The key for the A’s is to not do anything different. This is a team that simply will not quit.
They finished their last road trip 4-6, but faced the likes of the Tigers, Yankees, and Rangers. And though the Mariners having a losing record, they played the A’s tough in all of their games.
With Sunday’s game tied in the top of the seventh, reliever man Ryan Cook struck out the side after giving up a double and a single to start the inning.
In fact, the A’s bullpen pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings giving up only those hits by Cook.
After Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect eighth, Balfour did the same in the ninth to close it out for his 22nd save.
Every game Balfour pitches, he comes in from the bullpen to the song “One” by Metallica. Balfour also gets an unusual intro from fans in Sec. 149 in the right field bleachers. They “rage” to the song flailing their arms wildly to the song.
Balfour says the unique fan support keeps him energized to get batters out:
“Yeah I mean I love it. It gets me fired up. It’s the only way I want to be when I’m out there and I love the fans here. They get crazy and they love their baseball here. I want to see a packed house this week and so on and get everyone into it.”
The baseball capacity at the Oakland Coliseum is 35,067. Here’s hoping each of these final three games will be sold out.