AT THE BALLPARK: A’S – RED SOX

Just got back from the O.co Coliseum and have this to report, as if you hadn’t heard: The Oakland A’s are on fire.

A 7-1 victory that never seemed out of reach after Coco Crisp led off the bottom of the first with a homerun put the A’s in the wildcard driver’s seat and pulled them to within three games of AL west-leading Texas. It’s eight straight wins for Oakland as they commemorate the 10-year anniversary of their 20-game winning streak in 2002 that was depicted in the movie Moneyball.

You see teams going to great lengths to get better at the July 31 trade deadline and then throughout August when players have to go through waivers. The Dodgers take on salary that is the equivalent of a small nation’s GDP, the Giants counter with other additions, Zack Greinke gets moved to the Angels, etc. All the while, players are getting hurt for the various contenders, who plug the holes as best they can.

Meanwhile, the A’s dance with the players they have and keep moving up the food chain.

They did their dealing in the offseason and now, astoundingly, they seem to have all the parts they need, no matter what happens. While Gio Gonzalez is racking up 17 wins for first-place Washington, the A’s are getting value from the trade haul that includes LHP Tommy Milone and C Derek Norris, who has a flair for the dramatic.

RHP Trevor Cahill is near break-even for Arizona, but the A’s flipped him for 23-year old Jarrod Parker, who has nine wins, as well as closer Ryan Cook, who checks in with 13 saves and 6 wins.

Former closer Andrew Bailey was dealt to these Red Sox for a package that included borderline-MVP candidate Josh Reddick and the A’s actually spent some cash on Cuban OF Yoenes Cespedes. Guess what? Billy Beane knocked it out of the park on those deals, too.

It couldn’t be playing out any more dramatically. Well, I guess if more than 20,000 people showed up at the O.co Coliseum to see the thrashings of the Red Sox, it would be an improvement. Red Sox Nation was very visible, though they didn’t come close to outnumbering the Green and Gold, who are very loyal in showing their colors. But the Boston faithful, even in the middle of a “roster cleansing,” were in the house, unabashed, using any and all means to display their team spirit (see the picture at left).

Not to worry for the A’s, though. If this winning thing keeps up, those seats will surely be filled. Even with the cross-bay Giants wrapping up the NL west.

Tonight’s game was the sequel to the previous night’s 20-2 drubbing, only more subtle. Coco Crisp (Pictured touching homeplate at left) led off the bottom of the first inning with a homerun off of Felix Dubront to put the A’s up 1-0. It stayed that way till the third, nice and close, but the laboring of Dubront quickly became a factor. The fans were still in celebration mode from the seven-game winning streak and the outburst the night before, so it never really felt like Boston was in the game. A.J. Griffin was setting what is left of the Red Sox batting order down in successtion so it seemed like a matter of time before….

Then it happened, in the bottom of the third. Four runs came across as Cespedes, Norris and Brandon Inge had RBI hits and the home crowd was in celebration mode as the winning streak was all but assured of extending to eight.

1B Chris Carter launched a towering bomb in the bottom of the seventh, as yet another Oakland strategem paid off. The A’s began the year with light-hitting Daric Barton as their first baseman but have since moved to a platoon of Carter and Brandon Moss. Carter’s shot tonight was his 13th, Moss has 15 longballs, and the  A’s seem to get production form everywhere. Every team looks to fill holes. This year’s A’s club finds the right button to press for whatever ails them.

That’s how it looks on September 1st.

Ahead lies the pennant stretch. Oakland’s schedule is scary. The roster is full of unproven talent that is working together beautifully under manager Bob Melvin. Seeing it in person, it is even more impressive than on TV. This doesn’t look like a precise machine that punches numbers methodically to get the result. These Oakland A’s are a loose bunch of players that play baseball with the abandon that would label them as throwbacks. They play hard, take chances and get dirty. With a month left in the 2012 season, it works.

But they also have gotten shutdown pitching in spots and are currently bashing their opponents’ brains out with the homerun. There’s hustle and some luck, but they’re also putting the ball in play and stopping opposing offenses.  That’s a pretty good formula.

The remaining schedule is formidable, but it doesn’t look like this team is worried about anything that is put in front of it. The few that are taking notice of it see the A’s success (now 18 games over .500) as a feel-good story and are finally acknowledging them as a threat to claim a wildcard spot.

The way they’re playing, and how they’re going about posting these wins, the division isn’t out of the question.

All Photos: Steve Cummings/HotStoveheat.com