Over the next seven days, the Athletics will play six games, all in Oakland, head-to-head with the clubs directly ahead of and behind them in the race for two playoff spots. This could be a week the A’s look back on at the end of the season and either lament or exult.
The A’s (70-48) have gone 36-12 sine June 16, fewer wins than only the Red Sox (37-12) over that stretch, and trail Houston by a mere 2-1/2 games in the American League West race while holding a 1-1/2-game lead over Seattle for the AL’s second Wild Card spot.
With exactly seven weeks left in the regular season, Oakland finds itself smack-dab in the middle of a very intriguing postseason push, something manager Bob Melvin is excited for:
“It’s really the one true race with multiple teams, it should be a lot of fun. … Certainly it kinda ratchets (excitement) up a little bit, where we are in the season and who we’re playing.”
With 44 games left, the skipper added:
“The intensity starts to build. … It’s a little more of a sprint now.”
That sprint will include another visit from the Mariners (Aug. 30-Sept. 2) and trips to both Houston (Aug. 27-29) and Seattle (Sept. 24-Sept. 26) in the season’s final week. But if this season has come down to a 200-meter race, the first 50 meters come this week with Oakland looking to create space in the Wild Card race and possibly crest AL West hill.
Oakland has not fared well against either divisional foe this season, having gone 3-6 in nine prior meetings with the Mariners (69-50) and 4-9 in 13 with the Astros (73-46). But much of that failure came before this young A’s turned their mid-June corner. In fact, they have not met the M’s since then and in their lone showdown with the Astros they took three of four in Houston — falling victim to one of this season’s most bizarre endings in defeat.
Now, having overcome Seattle’s seven-game advantage, the A’s get their first chance to personally create breathing room between them and their closest challengers. And while Melvin was adamant that his club would feel just as comfortable on the road, given its 37-25 record away from the Oakland Coliseum, he is happy to get this chance at home:
“We’re just starting to play better at home. You always want to be able to take care of business at home. … It’s nice to be home for an extended period — sleep in your own bed.”