ARLINGTON, Texas – The thought of losing his center fielder and leadoff man for any period of time can’t be too pleasant for A’s manager Bob Melvin.
He had to feel good, however, about what he witnessed Sunday night at Globe Life Park.
The A’s turned to their theory of assembly-line offense – where one guy delivers a big hit only to set the table for the next guy behind him. The result was a 9-3 whipping of the Rangers that helped Oakland claim a three-game series in the searing heat of north Texas.
By the time the A’s took the field Sunday, Melvin knew center fielder Coco Crisp was headed back to the Bay Area to get his injured neck examined. Crisp has been in and out of the lineup for more than two months with neck pain stemming from a hard crash into the center field wall May 7.
It’s likely the A’s won’t see Crisp again until they return home following a three-game series at Houston that begins Monday night. And it figures a trip to the disabled list for Crisp is at least a possibility.
“It’s just lingering,” Melvin said of Crisp’s injury. “We felt like we were getting over the hurdle a little bit, but the last couple nights not so much. We sent him back to see the same doctors that were dealing with the neck issue.”
Crisp’s numbers are somewhat modest this season -- .274 ,7 homers, 32 RBI – but he’s 10th in the American League in on-base percentage (.372), and his impact as the A’s table-setter in recent years is well-documented.
“We definitely want that guy healthy and playing for us because he is awesome at the top of the lineup,” catcher John Jaso said. “… You don’t want him going out there and hurting himself to where he wouldn’t be in the postseason if we were to make it.”
The A’s are 41-29 with Crisp in the starting lineup this season. Then again, they’re 24-10 without him, which speaks to the team’s depth and ability to find different ways to generate runs.
Sunday’s victory was a prime example. Jaso provided a huge spark filling in for Crisp in the leadoff spot, going 2-for-5 with three RBI. He’s now hitting .380 with 13 RBI over his last 15 games.
When Crisp is out of the lineup, Jaso has been Melvin’s choice to lead off against right-handers. Craig Gentry usually gets the call against lefties. In 15 starts hitting atop the order this season, Jaso is batting .371 (23-for-62) with 17 RBI.
Jaso said he’s comfortable leading off, but it does present some logistical challenges for a catcher.
“It’s usually a little bit hectic coming down from the bullpen warming up the pitcher, and having to go straight to the on-deck circle and be ready to hit,” he said.
After the A’s beat the Rangers via the long ball Saturday night, Sunday’s 11-hit attack featured all singles and doubles, with five walks sprinkled in to keep things moving on the bases.
“You just never know how we’re going to get it done on any given night,” designated hitter Stephen Vogt said. “That’s why it’s fun to watch and fun to be a part of it.”
After dropping the opening games of series against the Houston Astros and Rangers, the A’s have come back to win the next two each time. They’ve won each of their first three series out of the All-Star break to move to a major league-best 65-39. Oakland has needed to play well to stay two games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Angels in the A.L. West.
And Crisp is hardly the only Athletic hampered by physical issues. Vogt hobbles through the clubhouse after games due to an aching right foot. Gentry is playing with a sore left knee. Alberto Callaspo was just activated Sunday from the D.L. after a hamstring injury. Yoenis Cespedes missed Thursday’s game with a sprained right thumb and Brandon Moss has dealt with assorted aches.
On Sunday, Moss fouled a ball off his right knee and was visited by assistant trainer Walt Horn but stayed in the game.
“Moss has a pad on his ankle and he never hits his ankle,” Melvin said, somewhat amazed. “It’s either his foot or his knee. But we’ve said many times, he’s about as tough a guy as we have.”
But as the injuries seem to keep coming, so do the victories.
“Last night, we scored all five runs on home runs,” Vogt said. “Tonight we don’t hit any. We were just stringing hits together. Top to bottom, everyone’s contributing.”