The Oakland Athletics, ever resilient to the last.
In the end, the 2013 A's didn't make any waiver-deadline trades to improve a flawed team, but perhaps they don't need to: once again, the team did just enough to win a game over a playoff-caliber team, beating the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, 2-1, at the O.co Coliseum last night.
Coco Crisp was The Show, collecting three of the team's five total hits off Alex Cobb, including the difference maker -- an eighth-inning, solo home run that gave Oakland a 2-0 lead at the time, an extra run they would need when tired closer Grant Balfour gave up a run in the ninth.
Stephen Vogt provided a big hit, with a leadoff triple in the sixth, and Crisp's single immediately after scored the game's first run. That was Vogt's first career three-base knock.
A's rookie Sonny Gray pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings for his second major-league win, and Sean Doolittle, Danny Otero and Balfour combined to preserve Oakland's 77th win of the season, in front of a sellout crowd of 35,067 at the Coliseum.
Today, A.J. Griffin (11-9, 3.94 ERA) takes the mound as the A's go for the sweep over their nearest American League wild-card competition. After wins over Tampa Bay on Friday and Saturday, Oakland is now 1.5 games ahead of the Rays in the race for the top wild-card spot.
The A's are 26-17 in one-run ballgames this year: that win total in close games is the highest in the AL in 2013.
And while other teams around MLB were making last-minute deals to improve their rosters, Oakland stood pat -- for better or for worse, only time will tell. But Otero's presence in the eighth inning last night was telling in terms of giving this tired bullpen some in-house relief.
The young righty had a 5.84 ERA with the San Francisco Giants in 2012, throwing 12.1 innings for the eventual World Series champions. But this year in Oakland, Otero has a 1.19 ERA in 30.1 innings for the A's.
He struck out Rays All-Star Evan Longoria with a runner at second base to end the top of the eighth last night, a huge moment that Manager Bob Melvin clearly trusted Otero with in this game.
"We've been a little spotty down there at times in the bullpen, for a bullpen where the expectations are to be perfect all the time," Melvin told MLB.com after the game. "You have to be consistent with those guys and you have to have some faith in them and belief in them when times aren't great. ... It wasn't a tough call for me."
If the A's can add Otero to the reliable-guy mix in the bullpen, it will truly help Balfour and Ryan Cook, Oakland's primary, late-inning righties: Balfour will be unavailable to pitch Sunday after three straight tough outings, and Cook will probably on call to close today if needed.
With the Texas Rangers coming to town for a three-game set starting Monday, the A's will need Balfour rested and ready. After the grueling blown save on Thursday in Detroit, the Aussie reliever has needed a lot of pitches the last two nights to secure these wins against Tampa Bay.
But the two wins did give Oakland a winning August (14-13), their ninth straight winning month dating back to June 2012 -- and that keeps the A's right on track for a return visit to the AL postseason in 2013.