The Oakland Athletics are in a desperate position and have slipped from division champion certainties to Wild Card dropouts in the past five weeks.
On August 8 the A’s were top of the American League West division with a healthy four game advantage over Los Angeles Angels. No less than six players had recently returned from the All-Star game and manager Bob Melvin anticipated a successful end to the regular season.
How things have changed.
Difficult few weeks
Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Chicago White Sox saw Melvin’s team slip 10 games behind the Angels in the AL West and now Oakland are sweating over their Wild Card slot.
According to MLB.com, eight of the last nine Oakland games (going back to September 2) have all been decided by a single run. They have lost seven of those eight.
All-Star Scott Kazmir choked in the sixth inning and conceded a home run off Marcus Semien which eventually settled the game after an eight inning shutout by White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale.
Race for the playoffs
With 16 games left until the end of the September, six teams (including the stuttering Athletics) are separated by just five games and only two will reach the postseason.
The Athletics lead the race for the Wild Card spots but are the most out of form team of the six. Oakland are one game ahead of Detroit who currently possess the other Wild Card spot and 1 1/2 games ahead of Seattle, who they travel to next for a three-game weekend series.
It would take a brave person to call the two teams who will reach the playoffs from the A’s, Detroit, Seattle, Toronto, Cleveland and the Yankees.
Honest from the A's
Speaking to MLB.com, A’s manager Melvin gave a very honest assessment of his team’s position.
“We’re playing for our lives now. Just the way it is. We put ourselves in this position,” said Melvin.
The Athletics appear to be short of any confidence as the season closes in and Melvin is yet to put his finger on why this is.
Last night the Athletics came up against one of the best pitchers of 2014 in the form of Chris Sale (12-3). The starting pitcher tossed a game-winning eight inning shutout to lower his year’s ERA to 1.99.
The Athletics are unlikely to face anyone of Sale’s calibre in Seattle but they need to start taking their chances and getting bat on ball in the tight games, such as last night when they managed just three hits all game.
Oakland must not be gripped by the fear of seeing all their fine work from April to mid-August become meaningless and they must begin tonight against one of their closest rivals.