OAKLAND — There was not a single television in the Oakland Athletics tuned to the Tampa Bay-Toronto game on Sunday morning.
With their magic number down to one to clinch the second wild card spot, the A’s — 7 1/2 games up on the Rays with seven to play — and manager Bob Melvin preferred to do it on the field.
“I think we just want to hopefully take care of business ourselves,” Melvin said. “That would be the fun way to do it.”
“I think the playoff teams that I’ve been here [for] — ’13 and ’14 — and when I was in Houston in 2015 when we made the playoffs, it was a similar vibe,” said second baseman Jed Lowrie. “I just think that’s a healthy place for a team to be, where you know when you have to turn it on, and be a pro and go out there and perform.”
As of game time, the A’s got their wish. The Rays beat the Blue Jays, 5-2. The A’s have Trevor Cahill going, who’s been at his best at the home this season, with a 1.49 ERA and a 5-0 record. Cahill, though, is coming off of an upper back injury that saw him go just 2 2/3 innings and give up three earned runs with six walks last time out at the Coliseum.
“He has quite the track record here, and obviously he’s had some injuries,” Melvin said. “He’s been out a little bit. Probably not a full complement of pitches today, but any time you can get him out on the mound here at home where he’s had a lot of success, we feel good about that. We’ll kind of monitor him, see how we go along the way, but I know he’s excited about taking the mound today.”
Oakland has clinched two of its last three playoff berths at home. They clinched the 2012 AL West title on the last day of the season at home against the Texas Rangers, and the 2013 division crown on Sept. 22 at home against Minnesota. Oakland clinched the second Wild Card spot on the final day of the season in 2014, on the road against the Rangers.
“It’d be great. It’s happened here before,” said Melvin. “Hopefully, we go out there and put on a good show for them. We always want to. Obviously, it’s fan appreciation weekend, there have been a lot of people here and two pretty spirited games here to start, so hopefully we can finish it off today. I know that’s what everybody’s thinking.”
Oakland has gone 26-9 at home since the All-Star break, and given the A’s propensity for late-game heroics, it would be fitting for the home clincher to come late. The team that lost 89 games a year ago has 10 wins in their final at-bat, including two in the last two nights against the Minnesota Twins.
Lowrie — who is one of four A’s infielders to start 130 games or more at their respective primary positions — is getting the day off, but the way Oakland has gone as of late, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’ll enter at some point.
“He’s been terrific,” Melvin said of Lowrie, who has started 131 games at second, and 14 at third when Matt Chapman went down with a hand injury. “The last two years, he’s had a couple of surgeries I think that have actually allowed him to play a little bit more. He’s out there almost every day now, he’s durable, he’s consistent. As consistent as his offense has been, his defense has been just as consistent, so I’ve said often these are probably the best two years he’s had since he’s been playing, and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down.”