Sep 13, 2013, 10:40 AM PST
It sort of feels like this is it. If the Oakland Athletics can win this road series against the Texas Rangers, odds are they will once again don the American League West crown.
The Rangers’ last stand will be on their turf. They won’t go down easy. This tough Texas team will be playing with their collective backs against the wall. Like a frightened rattlesnake, they will inject every drop of venom they can muster into each bite.
This is the most important series of the season in the AL West. With over half a month of baseball left, this is the last time the A’s and Rangers square off. Last season, when the A’s pulled off the improbable and took the division after being down five games in the standings with nine to play, they knew they only had to be in striking distance. The final three games of the 2012 season were against the Rangers in Oakland. The Rangers won’t be afforded the same luxury.
The A’s are clicking at the right time. They are a season-high 25 games over .500 after winning the previous series in Minnesota. They have won five of their past six games, and their 3.5 game lead in the division is the furthest they’ve been ahead of the Rangers since August 3.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are slumping. They were swept in their previous series at home against the Pirates and have lost nine of the last 11 games.
The A’s enter Texas with a lineup that is firing on all cylinders for the first time all season. The A’s best all-around player, Yoenis Cespedes, has been inconsistent this season, but he has driven in a run in each of the past six games — a career-best streak. The Cuban-born slugger is finding his swing at the right time. In the A’s 11 September games, Cespedes is hitting (18 for 42) with two home runs, 10 RBI, and eight multi-hit games.
The A’s are getting contributions from everyone. They have 10 players batting over .300 since the calendar flipped to September. That list includes names like Daric Barton (.423), Chris Young (.389), Stephen Vogt (.375), Nate Freiman (.313), Seth Smith (.308), Eric Sogard (.304).
The A’s pitching staff is also fully healthy near the end of the season for the first time in a while. Guys that were in the Opening Day starting rotation, like Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone, are contributing in the bullpen. The pitching staff has seemingly endless amounts options. Like the hitters, the pitchers are also thriving in September with a 2.57 staff ERA.
Best case scenario: The A’s deliver a beating to the Rangers and essentially crush their hopes of catching up in the standings. Worst case scenario: The A’s get swept by the Rangers. If that happens to the A’s would still leave Texas in first place and control their own destiny with a softer schedule remaining.
A’s remaining opponents (games) after this three-game series in Texas: Angels (6), Twins (4), Mariners (3).
A’s playoff tickets go on sale September 17. They will likely be a safe investment.
RHP Dan Straily (9-7, 4.15) vs. LHP Derek Holland (9-8, 3.17) CSN
RHP Bartolo Colón (15-6, 2.85) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (12-8, 2.84) FOX
RHP Jarrod Parker (11-6, 3.55) vs. LHP Martin Perez (9-4, 3.60) CSN
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