Oakland Athletics Face Uphill Battle in September for Playoff Berth
The Oakland Athletics have fought tooth and nail into the top American League wild-card spot with a month remaining in regular season play, sitting 14 games above .500 for the first time since 2006.
Bob Melvin and the A’s got back on track from an early season derailment after a nine-game losing skid that left the Athletics clubhouse in post-game silence all too often.
The Cinderella story that is the 2012 Athletics’ season has left its mark in the storybooks. The A’s lead the league with 13 walk-off victories, are amongst the MLB’s lowest team ERA’s, and are doing so at a fraction of the cost of the October-bound teams.
The 19-5 July that left opposing clubs in the rearview mirrors of the Athletics spoke volumes of their playoff potential.
Sitting on a .500 record at the All-Star Break meant progress for Oakland, but work was to be done.
The four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in front of the home crowd in Oakland caused a ripple effect throughout the league. The Oakland A’s meant business.
The Athletics’ tireless chase of the AL wild-card will face its biggest hurdle in a September that promises to give baseball fans an early taste of the postseason play that could make or break the magical A’s season.
Boston Red Sox
September opens up with Bobby Valentine’s struggling Red Sox at the O.co Coliseum on the A’s return home. Though the A’s have taken five of six from the Red Sox this season, Boston will take the field looking to avenge the three-game sweep they suffered at the hands of Oakland at Fenway Park in May.
The Sox may not be playing for a postseason position, but teams with nothing to lose tend to be most dangerous.
Boston’s injury-ridden year and mismanagement has dropped them to the cellar of the dominant American League East.
Los Angeles Angels
Oakland welcomes the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a three-game series—a series with obvious postseason implications.
The A’s most recent stint with the Angels left the A’s on top, but Oakland suffered a shutout loss at the hands of ace Jered Weaver in the series opener.
The Athletics are 7-5 against the Angels on the year, and will cross paths a week after the home series in Anaheim for a four-game series.
The post-Ichiro Seattle Mariners hit stride after the All-Star Break and have caused a small stir in the American League West. Felix Hernandez’s perfect game gave life to the Mariners in a year when there wasn’t much.
Seattle is 6-4 in their last 10, and though postseason dreams are gone, the Mariners could prove to be a spoiler team down the road.
Oakland will see King Felix and the Mariners in Seattle following the first series with the Angels, and at home the last weekend of September for three games.
One of the current wild-card threats to the Athletics is the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s, also in a late season playoff push, are looking to nuzzle their way into the postseason via wild-card contention.
Baltimore has battled through a 16-9 August, and are 7-3 in the last 10 games. The Orioles are in the hunt to bring the postseason back to Baltimore for the first time since 1997.
The A’s and Orioles have split the season series 3-3.
Former 2011 Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers, also seeking postseason berth, will welcome the A’s for a three-game series mid-month.
Two-time Home Run Derby winner Prince Fielder has been an offensive powerhouse for Detroit, racking up a .310 batting average.
Detroit’s offense will be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming month, especially for the A’s, a team in the midst of an exhausting September.
The AL West leading Texas Rangers are used to the heat, literally. The Athletics will play a four-game series in the heat of Texas just before Oakland’s final two-game series against Seattle, and wrap-up the regular season with a three-game bout at home.
Looking to make their third consecutive World Series appearance, former Oakland third base coach Ron Washington’s Rangers possess weapons for success.
Josh Hamilton, currently accounting for 36 home runs this season, has the deep-ball power to break a game open.
The home-field advantage will play a vital role in the series as the postseason will be right around the corner.
New York Yankees
Last, but not least, the Bronx Bombers.
The New York Yankees will be looking to avenge their four-game sweep endured in Oakland the last time the two met. In a time when the Athletics could be in a must-win mindset, the A’s will travel to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series.
The A’s have taken four of seven from the Yankees, all four coming from the sweep in Oakland.
The explosive Yankee offense is riddled with postseason veterans that perform well in the final stretch of the regular season.
Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira are among the team’s batting leaders. There is not an easy out in the Yankee lineup.
The Yankee lineup will pose the biggest threat to the young Athletics pitching staff.