Club focused on catching Red Sox for AL's best record, holding off Tigers
OAKLAND -- Just because the A's have captured the American League West doesn't mean they can rest. They want the same thunderous crowd that was with them during Sunday's clincher on their side for Game 1 of the AL Division Series that begins next week.
More than that, they want to be playing the Wild Card winner, which would require them to finish the season with the AL's best record. Boston currently owns that by 1 1/2 games over Oakland.
"We may have two weeks before the playoffs begin, but at the same time, we want to grab that top spot," said catcher Derek Norris. "Any time you can play the Wild Card winner, who probably burned their ace in that play-in game, we want that. We're right behind Boston, and Detroit's right behind us. So we can't pump the brakes. We gotta keep on the accelerator and keep going until we get that top spot."
As things stand now, the A's would host Detroit in an AL Division Series rematch. The Tigers beat Oakland in five games during last year's affair.
"Welcome it or not, that's who we have," said manager Bob Melvin. "You can kind of see it coming. You try not to look too far forward, but based on where we were and they were, you can kind of see it coming again. Good chance it'll be another battle against those guys. It's a great, great team. They can pitch, they can hit, they can do a little bit of everything. So we definitely have our work cut out for us, and it should be exciting."
Even if the A's and Tigers finish the regular season with the same record, Oakland holds the edge for home-field advantage, having played Detroit to a 4-3 record. The A's went 3-3 against Boston.
"We're still playing for something," said Josh Reddick. "We're not going to stop just because we won this division. We know that having home-field advantage, especially against a team like the Tigers, is going to be huge. That's what we want."
The A's were defeated by ace Justin Verlander in losses in Games 1 and 5 last year. Yet they beat him just a few weeks ago in Detroit, where their offense broke out in a crucial four-game series they nearly swept. Ultimately, Oakland took three of four but still walked away with a heap of confidence that has been with them ever since.
"I think that series against the Tigers was huge for us," said Brandon Moss. "They have such a good pitching staff and, offensively, we had struggled all year in certain situations. We went in there and did a really good job, and for our confidence, that just carried over."
Oakland is 52-29 at home this season.
"We want home-field advantage. That's within reach," said general manager Billy Beane. "That's a nice little incentive to make sure these next six games have some meaning.
"You prefer to play in front of these fans, period, as many times as you can. It's that simple. This is an intimidating crowd for teams to come into. Last year showed it. We want to play in front of these people as much as we can."