OAKLAND – A’s manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t bite when asked about the psychological blow his team might have dealt the Los Angeles Angels with a weekend sweep.
He didn’t have to.
The proof was visible to anyone who watched what took place the past three days at the Coliseum.
The Angels came in having won 14 of 20, while the A’s appeared a team that might be there for the taking after losing six of their previous eight. Instead, the A’s flipped the script, whipping Los Angeles all three days, capped by Sunday’s 6-3 victory.
Even Melvin, so conscious of the pitfalls for a team that starts believing its own press clippings, had to admire the way his club played before three large and very energized Coliseum crowds.
“That’s a tough team, and they came in playing well too,” he said. “The first night, we swung it pretty good. We had to come back the next night. Today was just kind of a well-played baseball game. It was nice. You have to play well against those guys.”
Counting a series in Anaheim when they took two of three, the A’s are 5-1 against the team that might be their stiffest competition in the AL West. They’ve opened up a 4 ½ game lead on the Angels.
And though Melvin publicly isn’t placing much significance in – “that’s a good team with a bunch of veteran guys” – the Angels had to leave the Bay Area shaking their heads a bit over what will seemingly take to get the best of Oakland.
“You have to play pretty much perfect baseball against them,” Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver said. “They have speed, guys who do little things, bunting, guys who take pitches. They’re having a great year. They showed they’re for real this weekend. We’re not going to hang our heads. We’ll see these guys a bunch more times.”
A rematch awaits, in fact, just a week from Monday at Angel Stadium. Before then, the A’s head back east to play six games against the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, two teams who are treading water in the standings but are expected to compete in the AL East.
Another issue is whether the A’s can keep the momentum rolling from this weekend even after Monday’s day off. They were hitting the cover off the ball and had won nine of 10 in mid-May when they took a day of rest heading into a series at Tampa Bay. Their bats went cold for a stretch starting with that Rays series, and though that might have just been coincidence, there’s something to be said for wanting to keep playing games uninterrupted when a team is clicking.
“Our whole thing is just trying to take it one at a time,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said, before adding: “I’m not a big advocate of off-days.”
Donaldson is coming off one whale of a homestand -- he went 11 for 28 with four homers, 12 RBI and seven runs in seven games. With the third baseman rapidly becoming one of the American League’s elite players, three games at Yankee Stadium certainly presents a grand stage.
“I can only speak for myself. I know anytime you can go into Yankee Stadium it gets the juices flowing a little bit more,” Donaldson said. “As a kid growing up, you always follow the Yankees, and it’s just one of those things, you relish those times.”
The A’s gave fans something to relish on a weekend they also celebrated the 40th anniversary of their 1974 World Series championship. They finished off a sweep Sunday, jumping on Weaver for four runs in the third inning. That was enough for Sonny Gray (6-1), who went 6 2/3 innings and won for the first time at home since April 18.
“We all knew coming in it was tight (in the standings) and they were playing really good baseball,” Gray said. “The way we were able to put these three games together was awesome.”