The Oakland Athletics play the New York Yankees today at the O.co Coliseum for the final time in 2014, and all A's fans on hand will be hoping to send away retiring shortstop Derek Jeter with a loss in his final appearance in Oakland during the regular season.
The A's dropped a 7-0 decision to the Yankees on Friday night before rebounding with a 5-1 win on Saturday night, so the game will also be a rubber match for the three-game series. Of course, Oakland beat New York twice in three games last week in the Bronx.
Oakland sits atop the American League still with its 41-27 record, two games better than the Toronto Blue Jays (40-30). And the A's lead the AL West division by 3.5 games over the Los Angeles Angels (37-30). Every game out is a big one for the Oakland club as it tries to win its third straight AL West championship and get deeper into the postseason after two straight, Game Five, AL Division Series losses to the Detroit Tigers in 2012 and 2013.
Friday night's loss was only the third one for the A's this season where they lost by at least five runs. Oakland has 17 wins on the other side of that "blowout' ledger, so it was truly important for the team to come back Saturday the way they did.
Sonny Gray took the loss on Friday night, and while he is still 6-3 with a 2.93 ERA on the year, he hasn't been as dominant as perhaps the A's were hoping. But he's only 24 years old -- and still learning how to control his pitches. One flaw for him in his first 156 innings in the majors has been the walks.
The young righty has issued 52 bases on balls in his short career, exactly one every three innings. He will have to cut back on that to truly reach an elite place amongst MLB starting pitchers, and Oakland hopes he can do that in time for the team to clinch that third straight division title.
While Gray still pitched well enough to win Friday, the larger issue was the offense that mustered only two hits and three walks off Yankees starter David Phelps. The New York pitcher came into the game with a 4.88 ERA, but the A's couldn't scratch him whatsoever -- it proved costly.
On Saturday, though, the Oakland offense was back in stride against Yankee Hiroki Kuroda. The A's chased him in the fifth inning, scoring four times off him. Meanwhile, Scott Kazmir gave up one unearned run in six innings to effectively silence the New York bats.
Today's Father's Day game starts at 1:05 p.m.