OAKLAND – The A’s accomplished plenty on a 10-game homestand that wrapped Sunday, but one thing they didn’t do was pat themselves on the back.
Here’s shortstop Jed Lowrie’s understated take after Oakland won eight of 10 games and commanded first place in the American League West:
“It was a good homestand. Now we gotta go on the road and take care of business.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin, usually a chatty sort in analyzing his team, didn’t offer much when asked for his big-picture view.
“It started out good, ended up good,” Melvin said of the homestand. “Eight and two? We’ll take that anytime.”
Anything more to add?
“Yeah … yeah. We’ll take 8-2.”
The likelihood is nobody wearing green and gold wants to jinx the good thing they have going by talking too much about it. But there’s something else at work.
The A’s give off the vibe of a team that expects to play at their current level and sees bigger possibilities on the horizon. Therefore, holding down first place on Sept. 8 isn’t cause for celebration.
Last season, the A’s were a loose bunch that played pressure-free knowing full well that nobody expected much of them. The 2013 A’s came in with loftier expectations, not only from outside observers, but within their own clubhouse.
That would explain the lack of gloating after Sunday’s 7-2 win over the Houston Astros, a game that offered lots for Melvin to feel good about pointing forward.
For one, Bartolo Colon showed his best form in three starts since coming off the disabled list for a groin injury. He gave up a first-inning run but nothing more, allowing five hits and just one walk with seven strikeouts over six innings.
His fastball touched 93 miles per hour in his final inning, noteworthy considering his drop in velocity before he joined the D.L. But he’s also got the movement back on his pitches. That was evident on his final batter – when he rang up Marc Krauss on a two-seamer that came back toward the plate and shaved the inside corner.
“That was vintage Bartolo,” catcher Stephen Vogt said.
Jarrod Parker is maturing into a staff ace, and Sonny Gray is showing tremendous potential. But make no mistake, if the A’s are to qualify for the postseason and do damage, Colon must play an instrumental role. His experience and cool demeanor will be vital for such a young rotation.
Colon’s victory made history Sunday, as he became the first pitcher to post 15-win seasons with four teams. He did it with the Indians, Angels, White Sox and now the A’s.
Keeping with the postgame theme, Colon didn’t make a big deal of the accomplishment. Speaking through interpreter Ariel Prieto, he gave the impression he wasn’t even aware of it.
Melvin was just relieved to see Colon resemble his All-Star form of the first half.
“I thought he was really good,” Melvin said. “After the first two hitters, it looked like that got his attention in a hurry. He ramped it up. Really good movement, good location today. There was a lot of good things came out of Bartolo’s outing for us.”
The A’s also showed they can enjoy a big offensive day without their leading RBI man. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who started 140 of the A’s first 142 games, received a rare day off to rest a strained right quadriceps and is expected back Tuesday at Minnesota.
The A’s didn’t miss him – for one day at least – as they tied for their biggest inning of the season with a seven-run rally in the third. It’s also an encouraging sign for Oakland that Yoenis Cespedes’ bat seems to be coming around. He’s hitting .406 (13 for 32) in September after batting just .216 in August, the lowest single-month average of his career.
Granted, the A’s need closer Grant Balfour to steady himself and command the ninth inning like he has most of the season. But as they embark on a six-game road trip to Minnesota and Texas, armed with a 1 ½ game division lead over the Rangers, Oakland has the look of a balanced, well-rounded team that’s peaking at the right time.
That bodes well for the future, even if the A’s won’t come out and say it.