OAKLAND -- For those who thought the A's being swept in Colorado over the weekend was a sign that they were slowing down, the last three days at the Coliseum indicated otherwise, and so do the current standings: They are tied for a playoff spot and here to stay as
OAKLAND -- For those who thought the A's being swept in Colorado over the weekend was a sign that they were slowing down, the last three days at the Coliseum indicated otherwise, and so do the current standings: They are tied for a playoff spot and here to stay as unexpected contenders in a pennant race.
With an 8-3 victory on Wednesday to complete a sweep of the Blue Jays -- and earn manager Bob Melvin his 601st win with the team, passing Art Howe for third most in franchise history -- the A's are right back to their winning ways. The win put the A's in a tie with the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot and kept the A's within five games of the Astros for the division lead after Houston defeated Seattle earlier on Wednesday.
"We have a chance here to do something," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I've been on a lot of teams. I've been on one playoff team where I was with the team all year. … Whenever you have a chance to win, you take full advantage of that chance."
Since June 16, the A's have a Major League-leading record of 30-10 and have made up 11 games on the Mariners in the standings. They have also claimed all seven games against the Blue Jays this season, going undefeated in a season series of seven or more games for the third time in franchise history.
After scoring just four runs in three games against the Rockies, the A's bats came alive against the Blue Jays, outscoring Toronto, 24-6, over three games and recording 36 hits in the series. On Wednesday, it was Lucroy and Franklin Barreto with three hits each and seven combined RBIs, backing up Sean Manaea's strong performance of six-plus innings, allowing one run and five hits.
Manaea recorded his 10th win of the season; he didn't reach 10 wins last season until September. Melvin noted that though Manaea does not throw as hard as he used to, he has developed into the No. 1 pitcher for the A's.
"You need an ace," Melvin said. "You need a guy that you know is going to be out there every fifth day and is going to give you innings every fifth day. I don't know where we'd be without him."
Manaea received no run support in his last start but got plenty on Wednesday. Lucroy knocked in four runs total, including the game's first three. He scored two in the second with a two-out single, then roped an RBI double down the left-field line in the fourth against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman. Up 4-0 after four innings, the A's scored three more in the sixth, with the bottom of the order leading off the frame with four straight hits. Barreto drove in two runs in the inning with a double, then hit a solo shot in the eighth for his third RBI.
It was the product of the A's depth up and down the lineup coming to life. Lucroy has primarily hit in the middle of the order throughout his career, but is now contributing at the bottom of the A's lineup.
"I'm a firm believer [that] when you have a real deep lineup, sooner or later, someone's going to get you," Lucroy said. "Might not be the first five guys, might not be the last four guys. It can be anywhere here, in between, back and forth."
On Wednesday, it was Lucroy and Barreto, the eight- and nine-hole hitters, carrying the offense.
"It's very contagious," Barreto said, via a team interpreter. "When you see guys ahead of you or behind you hitting, it's nice to see guys like [Matt] Chapman, [Matt] Olson, everybody doing their jobs. It's easier for me to go and help out."
The Jays cut into the lead against the A's bullpen, with Manaea's outing marking the 23rd straight game in which an A's starter has tossed fewer than seven innings. But it hasn't impacted them much; the A's improved to 16-7 in that stretch.
Melvin's 601st win vaulted him past Howe in the Oakland record books, but he has a while to go before reaching Tony La Russa (798 wins) and Connie Mack (3,582), the only two managers ahead of him in wins with the franchise.
Melvin joked that he was only "three games behind" Mack, but he doesn't even want to be in the same conversation as La Russa or Mack.
"Those are guys you don't even compare yourself to," he said. "Connie Mack and Tony La Russa are legends, and I'm just looking to make it to the next day."
HE SAID IT
"I'll be happy when I'm standing on the podium with a World Series trophy. I don't care that we're tied, because we still have a lot of work left to do. It's not over with yet. Lot of baseball left, lot of games left. We're not finished yet." -- Lucroy, on the playoff race
The A's have a day off Thursday before welcoming the Tigers for a three-game series beginning Friday. Brett Anderson (2-3, 5.55 ERA), who comes off back-to-back six-inning outings, will start for the A's. He'll face Detroit starter Blaine Hardy (4-3, 3.61) with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT at the Coliseum.
Eric He is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland.