Bay Area Baseball

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September 21, 2013
A's magic number is one after rain-delayed 9-1 win over Twins

OAKLAND -- While Saturday's game between the A's and Twins was being delayed two hours by rain, a Coliseum staffer approached one of the food services employees asking about trash bags. They might be needed later, he explained, in the A's clubhouse.

After the natural deluge ended and the A's mounted one of their own with 16 hits in a 9-1 win over the Twins, they re-entered a clubhouse draped in plastic wrap for their potential Champagne celebration -- only if the Rangers lost to the Royals in Kansas City.

It made for a funny scene. Players gathered around the TVs in the clubhouse watching the final few innings of the game in Kansas City, rooting audibly for the Royals, who wound up losing to Texas, 3-1. Almost immediately after the final out, clubhouse attendants started taking down the plastic, as players filed out for the evening.

The A's magic number is now one, meaning they can clinch the West with a win Sunday.

"We know it's right there," said right-hander Jarrod Parker. "It's something where if we handle what we do and we win games, it's going to happen."

The Rangers, though, are scheduled to begin play two hours before the A's, allowing for the possibility of the A's becoming division champions in the middle of their own game.

"It's just one of those ordeals," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "Whatever happens, happens. We'll take care of it when the game's finished."

Barring a catastrophic meltdown, the A's are going to the postseason as West champions for the second consecutive season. They've taken the drama out of the season's last week by going 17-5 over their last 22 games, beginning on Aug. 30, when they trailed Texas by 3 games. The Rangers have gone 6-15 over that same stretch.

Saturday's game was, as manager Bob Melvin described it, an amalgamation of all the things the A's do well. Parker allowed one run in six innings on a solo home run, while the lineup gave the A's an early lead and then kept piling on.

The A's also hit three more home runs, giving them 65 in their last 42 games since Aug. 7. Entering Saturday, no other team in baseball had hit more than 49 in that span.

So while the last week of the season is a formality in terms of a playoff berth, it's not a time for the A's to take their foot off the gas. There's playoff seeding, for one thing -- they began the day with the second-best record in the league by a game over the Tigers, which if the season ended that way would give them home-field advantage in the ALDS.

There's also a sense in the clubhouse that the A's are conscious of not wanting to let any complacency creep in over the next week. That wasn't a concern last year, when they were fighting for their playoff lives until the last day of the season.

"I think the most important part with having this lead is we want to continue to play good baseball," Donaldson said. "It's not something where you want to go into (the playoffs) playing bad. We're playing really well right now, but we want to continue to improve."

* The A's offense has totaled 28 runs and 38 hits in the first three games of this series against the Twins. Seeing how the offense is producing, Parker said, actually influenced the way he went after the Twins in the early innings Saturday.

"I felt like we were swinging the bats well and I just wanted to get us up to the plate," Parker said. "I just wanted us to be at the plate and tried to get some early contact and early outs."

Parker's totals of one walk and one strikeout spoke to that approach. Alberto Callaspo led the A's with four hits, tying a career high, including an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run homer to cap the five-run second, and is 9-for-21 on this homestand.

For being the A's big trade-deadline acquisition, Callaspo didn't make much of a splash outside of Oakland. But he has platooned effectively with Eric Sogard at second base, allowed Melvin to give Donaldson a few days off at third and posted a batting line that's pretty consistent with his career averages -- a .258 batting average and .723 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

"Sometimes it's an uncomfortable feeling coming into a new team that late, but he's done so well and fit in nicely," Melvin said. "You look in the dugout during games and the cage before, and a lot of the dynamic that takes place off the field, he's really comfortable and everybody's really comfortable with him. He's been a nice acquisition for us."

* Donaldson singled and doubled and now has 55 multiple-hit games this season, two shy of the Oakland record. He has reached base in 26 consecutive games and is batting .306 with a team-high 91 RBIs. In his later at-bats Saturday, he was met with chants of "MVP!" from an announced crowd of 26,393 at the Coliseum.

"That was cool," Donaldson said. "I mean, I'm 0-for-2 with two (strikeouts) with it, so I don't know how good it is. But it's nice, just the respect the fans showed me with that."

As with All-Star selections this summer, Donaldson will be hard-pressed to crack a field of MVP candidates that includes Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and others. But his value to the A's as arguably their most consistent hitter over the course of the entire season and a plus defender at third base should not go unnoticed.

"You've got a lot of great players in this game," Donaldson said. "And to be lumped in that classification with some of those guys -- do I necessarily think I deserve it? I don't know. That's for everybody else to decide.

"But it's one of those things, I feel really good about where I'm at right now, and being on this team and winning a lot of games."

* Parker rebounded from having his 19-start unbeaten streak snapped by the Angels to hold the Twins to Josmil Pinto's solo home run in the fifth. Before that, Parker retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced, and left with a comfortable lead having thrown 93 pitches.

Parker said he felt "definitely better" than in his last start, which was pushed back a day because he was sick. "It was kind of a clean week to be able to stick to my routine and be able to do the things I've been doing," he said. "It was definitely a better energy."

Having to wait out the two-hour rain delay, Parker said, "just brought me back to some (Double-A) Southern League memories, where every day you're almost rain-delayed. So it was something where it's not too foreign for me."

Donaldson said the A's "kept it pretty loose" during the delay, playing cards and such. They were given a rough idea of the new start time so they could start preparing about an hour beforehand.

"Everybody started locking it back in, and it worked out today," Donaldson said.

* Yoenis Cespedes has now homered in three consecutive games in which he has played and is batting .361 in September. After tomorrow, the Twins will be glad they don't see Cespedes again until next season -- he has hit safely in all 11 career games against them and is 19-for-44 (.432) with four homers and 18 RBIs.

* Coco Crisp was in the A's original lineup but scratched during the rain delay. Melvin said he'd been meaning to give Crisp a day off anyway, and the playing conditions after the rain made Saturday a good day for it.

"Nobody wants a day off right now, but we try to schedule some periodic days off for him just to keep him fresh and today ended up being that day," Melvin said.

* Along with the rain, the A's dealt with another sewage issue Saturday, with flooding in the coaches' locker room in the home clubhouse before the game. Melvin said afterward that everything had been cleaned up, and the A's have "somebody on call these days."

"It can be a source of humor, as it was before the game today, and as long as it doesn't affect things too much," Melvin said. "It kind of comes with the territory."

* The A's have one more chance to clinch the division in front of a home crowd -- after Sunday's series finale against Minnesota, they go on the road for their final two series against the Angels and Mariners. The consensus among players -- it would be nice to win at home for the fans, but as long as it gets done, the location doesn't matter much.

It's Twins right-hander Cole De Vries (0-0, 7.88) against A's rookie Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50) in the finale. First pitch at 1:05 p.m. -- with forecasts calling for sunny skies.

-- 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.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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