Bay Area Baseball

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September 20, 2013
A's beat Twins behind Colon, can clinch A.L. West on Saturday

OAKLAND -- For all the talk the A's have done about avoiding scoreboard-watching, they might have a good reason to do some Saturday. After their 11-0 win over the Twins on Friday and the Rangers' 2-1 loss to the Royals, the A's magic number to clinch both the A.L. West and a playoff spot in general is two.

That means they can clinch both Saturday with a win and a Rangers loss. If the A's hold up their end of the deal in their 1:05 p.m. start, they'll most likely then have to wait for a while to learn whether they're division champions, as the Rangers and Royals begin play three hours later.

Under that scenario, would they watch the Rangers game together? Reconvene if Texas were to lose?

"I haven't given it any thought," manager Bob Melvin said. "I know we play tomorrow at (1:05 p.m.), and then we'll consider what the options are after that. But I really haven't given it much thought."

When the Rangers' loss went final Friday night, the out-of-town-scoreboard operator who slipped the "F" tablet into place wiggled it back and forth, as if to alert an announced crowd of 36,067 at the Coliseum. It seemed to work, as the crowd broke out in cheers.

So it's not as if the A's can ignore the fact they're potentially one day from punching a ticket to the playoffs, which the Los Angeles Dodgers have already done and the Boston Red Sox did on Friday night.

"I'm going to stick to what I've been saying all along -- I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind," catcher Derek Norris said. "But we've got to come out and win a game tomorrow."

One thing the A's do control -- they can clinch in front of their home crowd simply by winning the next two games. Third baseman Josh Donaldson acknowledged, "That would be good," before clarifying that he, too, is trying not to look beyond Saturday afternoon and the Twins.

Still, it's nearly a foregone conclusion at this point that the A's are postseason-bound for the second consecutive year. Playoff seeding still must be determined -- as it stands now, the A's have the league's second-best record, one game better than the Detroit Tigers. If they finish that way, they'll play the Tigers in the first round with home-field advantage. The Red Sox have a better record than the A's by 2 ½ games.

Nobody, though, is quite willing to talk about that yet. The furthest anyone would go on Friday night was Donaldson, when asked how the end of this season compares to last, when the A's were scrapping for their playoff lives down to the final few days of the season and, as a result, couldn't really plan their celebrations.

"I'm planning on actually getting goggles this year," Donaldson said. "Last year my eyes were burning (from the champagne).

"But besides that, we've still got to go out there and take care of business," he added. "We understand that. And we want to continue playing good baseball until the playoffs."

* The A's jumped on Twins starter Andrew Albers quickly. Yoenis Cespedes hit his 25th homer of the season leading off a three-run second inning, adding to his awakening with the bat in September. Cespedes finished 1-for-4 and is now batting .358 (24-for-67) this month with five homers, 16 RBIs and multiple hits in 10 of his 18 games.

It's the first time Cespedes, who hadn't hit above .237 in any previous month this season, has homered in back-to-back games since May 5-6. "This is the guy that we feel like we always expect to see," Melvin said. "He had a little bit of a slow first half, but he's picking it up at the right time."

Donaldson said it seemed earlier in the season like Cespedes was fouling off quite a few pitches that he normally squares up. "Right now he's squaring them up," Donaldson said. "And when he squares the ball up, everyone knows he can hit it out of any park."

Donaldson, meanwhile, hit his 24th homer of the season in the sixth and finished 2-for-3 for his 54th multi-hit game of the season. Donaldson's 169 hits are the most in a season by an A's player since Mark Kotsay had 190 in 2004.

* With a 3-0 lead after two innings that swelled to 11 runs by the time he left the game in the seventh, Bartolo Colon was in serious strike-throwing mode, totaling 72 of 94 pitches for strikes and finishing within one of his season high with eight strikeouts.

More importantly, Colon was regularly around 91-93 mph with his fastball and had very good movement. In his five starts since returning from the disabled list, Colon has given up three earned runs -- including one run total allowed in 20 innings in his past three.

"Real similar to what we saw the last time out, which is really good to see," Melvin said. "He's talked about getting his second wind, and now we're seeing the movement again, we're seeing the velocity coming back.

"We gave him a little bit of a break with the DL, I think his last few times he's had five days' rest between starts. So I think we're seeing a guy that's really kind of hitting his stride again after a little bit of a down period."

Friday, Colon became the 11th pitcher in A.L. history to win at least 17 games in his age-40 season. Last year, of course, Colon won 10 games for the A's but was absent from all the clinching celebrations, due to his PEDs suspension. He was asked Friday whether it would be important to him to be involved in one this year.

"I'll try to enjoy it the most I can, because who knows what's going to happen next year," Colon said.

* One question that hasn't yet been broached with Melvin -- where might Colon belong in the A's playoff rotation? Does he get Game 1 over Jarrod Parker, who has lost once since May 22? Or if the A's were to open at home, might Colon be held until Game 3, knowing it's unlikely he'll be rattled by starting in an opposing stadium? If the A's do clinch this weekend, Melvin can expect those questions to start coming soon.

* Norris has quietly put together a very good second half at the plate. He had another two hits Friday and is batting .337 (29-for-86) since July 1, including 9-for-22 in his last six starts. Another indication: Kurt Suzuki has made just one start since Sept. 8.

* If the season ended today, the Rangers, who led the A's by three games at the end of play Aug. 29, would not qualify for the playoffs -- their loss Friday dropped them a half-game behind the Indians for the second wild card.

The A's, meanwhile, are 11-3 over their last 14 games and more than 27 games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2003 season, when they finished 96-66.

It's Twins left-hander Pedro Hernandez (3-1, 5.26) opposing Parker (11-7, 3.81) in a 1:05 p.m. start Saturday.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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Standings

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