The 2013 Oakland Athletics probably lost their chance at the best record in the American League this week with back-to-back losses on the road to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the A's still have an outside shot at that top mark in the AL as they enter the final weekend of regular-season play today in Seattle against the Mariners.
After scoring 49 runs in five straight wins through Monday, Oakland was suddenly punchless in Los Angeles: the A's scored just one run in their final 18 innings against the Angels, while registering just ten hits in the two losses.
Tuesday, Oakland (94-65) had a chance to tie the Boston Red Sox (96-63) for the best record in the AL, but now they stand two games behind them with just three to play: the A's face Seattle, while the Red Sox are in Baltimore.
However, the Mariners have had Oakland's number this year, posting a 10-6 record against the A's in 2013. Perhaps it's fortunate Oakland clinched the AL West division on Sunday when they did.
The two losses to the Angels also cost the A's ground in holding on to the No. 2 spot in the league, as Detroit is now only one game behind Oakland as it heads to Miami for its final three games of the season.
So the race for the postseason seeding in the AL still has some intrigue this weekend:
- Boston (96-63) faces Baltimore (83-76) on the road;
- Oakland (94-65) faces Seattle (70-89) on the road;
- Detroit (93-66) faces Miami (59-100) on the road.
Detroit would seem to have the best chance here to win all three games this weekend, and if that happened while the A's won two and the Orioles swept the Red Sox, there could be a three-way logjam atop the AL for the best record.
(By the way, the A's hold tiebreakers against both teams, based on regular-season results.)
But how much does home-field advantage really matter in baseball's postseason? As we saw last year, not much. Both World Series participants, Detroit and San Francisco, won Game 5s on the road in the Division Series round, and both were the No. 3 seeds in their respective leagues when the postseason began.
Like hockey, home-field edges come and go in baseball multiple times in the same series, and the value of a home-field advantage means a lot more in basketball and football playoffs, in truth.
But the A's would still like to have as many home games as they can this postseason, so they will have that in mind as they prepare, in essence, their three best pitchers for the weekend in Seattle:
- Bartolo Colon (17-6, 2.64) faces Felix Hernandez (12-9, 2.99) tonight. The King hasn't won since August 11 when his ERA was 2.44 for the season, and Colon has won his last three starts for Oakland;
- Tomorrow, Jarrod Parker (12-7, 3.74) takes on Brandon Maurer (4-8, 6.48). The A's young righty is 11-1 since May, while the Seattle pitcher has let opponents hit .313 off him this year;
- On Sunday, Sonny Gray (4-3, 2.90) opposes Erasmo Ramirez (5-2, 4.56) in the season finale. Oakland's rookie gem has surrendered only nine earned runs in his last five starts, and Ramirez is just 1-2 since August 13.
The contextual matchups seem to favor Oakland, but again, even though Seattle is 24 games behind the A's in the standings, they've already clinched the season series against Oakland.