OAKLAND -- Jonathan Lucroy's proclamation was heard in every corner of the A's clubhouse last week: "We win two out of three the rest of the year, we're going to win the World Series."That was after the A's took two of three from the Mariners. They've since stolen two of
OAKLAND -- Jonathan Lucroy's proclamation was heard in every corner of the A's clubhouse last week: "We win two out of three the rest of the year, we're going to win the World Series."
That was after the A's took two of three from the Mariners. They've since stolen two of three from the Astros and another pair from the Rangers to cap a nine-game homestand, yet again falling just shy of a sweep on Wednesday in a 4-2 loss at the Coliseum.
It could cost them, sure, but Oakland -- which fell a game behind Houston for the American League West division lead after the Astros won in Seattle on Wednesday -- is still in good shape, holding a 4 1/2-game advantage over the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card.
"If we live and die by every game, it could lead to other bad things," A's first baseman Matt Olson said. "That's not saying that we're ever OK with a loss, but you gotta step back and realize, we won the series, took two out of three. Obviously we want to come out and sweep every series, but a series win is good enough."
If the A's follow Lucroy's lead and secure at least two wins in each of their final 11 series, they would finish with as many as 98 wins. This, coming from a team that was sitting at 34-36 on June 15. The next day brought forth the beginning of baseball's best stretch: Oakland is 43-14 since June 16, losing only one of 19 series in that span.
"The way we're playing right now, we get a couple and want to try to finish off that third one, but if you look at the homestand and before you play it say you're going to win every series, you gotta take it," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "So we have to feel good about that."
The A's decidedly demolished the Rangers in the first two games of their latest set, outscoring them 15-0. Their bats were silenced in a matinee meeting with lefty Mike Minor, however, and they didn't score until the seventh inning following Minor's departure, when Stephen Piscotty picked up an RBI with his career high-tying 35th double.
Another doubles specialist, Jed Lowrie, hit one as a pinch-hitter to plate another run in the eighth, but it wasn't enough to bail out Edwin Jackson.
The right-hander was tagged for four runs and seven hits -- including homers by Shin-Soo Choo, on the first pitch of the game, and Joey Gallo -- in just 4 1/3 innings, matching his total against the Rangers on July 25. Jackson, who also walked three, has completed at least five innings in each of his other nine starts with the A's.
"Just a little off with his command," Melvin said. "They nicked him up for a few runs, but if that's a bad outing, we're still in a game and still have a chance in the ninth inning to tie it."
The A's loaded the bases in the final frame against right-hander Jose Leclerc -- the victim of a game-deciding, two-run blast off the bat of Khris Davis in Arlington last month -- but came up empty.
"This team doesn't give in," Jackson said. "You ask around the league, the word's out. We're not going to cave in. We're going to grind it out until the last out. When you have that attitude, it shows on the field, and the record shows as well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The A's squandered several scoring opportunities in the later innings, stranding two in the seventh and another in the eighth before the real drama began in the ninth. Matt Chapman opened the inning with a walk and advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch. Davis whiffed on a slider for strike three and Piscotty's weak fly ball was too shallow for a sacrifice fly, but Olson kept the inning alive by drawing a free pass. Chad Pinder quickly joined him on the bases after getting hit with the first pitch, but Nick Martini went down swinging for the final out.
"We battle all the way," Melvin said. "No quit until the last out, and there for a while in the middle innings it didn't look like we have much going on, then the next thing you know we have bases loaded in the ninth. They kept grinding."
Despite the loss, the A's still have their best record after 127 games since 2002, when they were also at 76-51.
HE SAID IT
"We've been playing great. They continue to have the same attitude every day, so you try to ride the wave of confidence and individualize the day, the inning, the at-bat, and that's what these guys are focused on, the right now." -- Melvin
The A's will head to Minnesota for four games with the Twins. Right-hander Trevor Cahill (5-2, 3.12 ERA) gets the ball in Thursday's 5:10 p.m. PT opener at Target Field, while the home club counters with righty Kohl Stewart (0-1, 7.71 ERA). Cahill has a 6.62 ERA in seven road starts, compared to a 0.85 ERA in eight starts at home.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.