Each game in Oakland’s sweep of the Yankees was decided by one run. A’s fans, players, and coaches alike were always on the edge of their seats. This sort of game may be more intense and more fun, but it’s also a bit stressful.
These last two games north of the border have been different.
Derek Norris got the A’s going with a two-run blast in the second inning yesterday, and after that Oakland hasn’t looked back. So far in the series, the A’s have outscored the Blue Jays 23-2. (That’s not a typo) The A’s have hit four homers along the way, but have scored runs with patience and timely hitting, too.
Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick are 5-15 in the series so far, but guys like Coco Crisp (4-10, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and Jonny Gomes (3-7, 3 R) played key roles in the games as well. Maybe the most promising takeaway from these two games is that every starter got a hit in game one except Chris Carter (who responded by going yard in game two for his sixth of the year), and every starter but Jemile Weeks got a hit and scored a run in game two (Weeks did score after walking). Sure, Cespedes and Reddick are the backbone of the offense, but if the rest of the lineup is producing, it obviously takes the pressure off the pair who have been carrying much of the load all season long.
Carter’s recent at-bats have been impressive, maybe impressive enough to cut down the chatter (and need) for an upgrade at first base. His defense has improved tremendously from last season, and if he can continue to put together good at-bats consistently, he could be the answer at first.
Brandon Hicks is looking more comfortable at the plate, too. He’s only 2-8 in the series, but his average is starting to creep up and his plate discipline has improved. Crisp and Gomes performing well at the top of the order gives Melvin the luxurious problem of having five outfielders who can hit. Seth Smith is hitting well, too, so a rotation between Cespedes, Reddick, Crisp, Gomes, and Smith among the outfield and DH will keep them all fresh. After all, no matter how hot a team is, injury and fatigue is always a concern.
Weeks sliding down to the nine-hole is unusual for an A’s lineup this season, but if Crisp and Gomes are getting it done, Bob Melvin has no reason to bat Weeks higher. He acts as a second lead-off man in the bottom of the order, and that worked out well for the A’s in game two when Weeks got two hits while driving in and scoring a run.
Derek Norris is out of his slump. Three hits in eight at-bats, one of which was that monstrous two-run home run.
It’s not like the Blue Jays are a bad team, either. They’re fresh off a sweep of the Red Sox and within striking distance of the American League Wild Card. But they have not looked it so far in this series.
Oh, yeah, the pitchers continued to impress as well.
A.J. Griffin has now put together six quality starts in a row, which is an Oakland record. He pitched six today and allowed only three hits and struck out nine. Travis Blackley wasn’t too shabby yesterday, either, going seven strong allowing five hits and one run while striking out eight.
What does all this mean for the trade deadline?
Interestingly enough, the A’s have been linked to Blue Jay Yunel Escobar as a possible addition at shortstop.
Escobar went 1-4 off Blackley yesterday, but did not play in the game today. A’s scouts were undoubtedly watching him closely, so if a trade for him is going to happen it might be within the next day or so while the A’s are in Toronto.
However, since the chatter about the A’s being interested in Escobar has not picked up in the last two days, it seems unlikely it will before the series concludes tomorrow with a first pitch at 12:37 local time.