A's 2013 run almost more impressive than 2012 heroics 

click to enlarge Coco Crisp, right, helped the A's move into a first-place tie Monday, as the magic of last year's run to the playoffs clearly hasn't faded in the East Bay. - CARY EDMONDSON/USA TODAY SPORTS
  • Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports
  • Coco Crisp, right, helped the A's move into a first-place tie Monday, as the magic of last year's run to the playoffs clearly hasn't faded in the East Bay.

After 137 games, the A's are tied with the Texas Rangers for first place in the American League West, triggering memories of last year's storybook run.

In many ways, this season sounds like a replay of 2012, a Robin Thicke-like rip-off of last summer's hit single. Once again, the A's are getting unexpected contributions in key places, they're persevering despite a number of untimely slumps and injuries and they're winning games with a roster of names that most of the folks on the East Coast still wouldn't recognize.

At this point, the A's have already spent 57 days in sole possession of first place, so they won't be able to re-create last season's climatic finish. Nevertheless, this year's run is, in some regards, more impressive than the script they wrote last year.

Right now, the A's are 21 games above .500 (79-58), which is remarkable considering that they're doing it on the heels of last year's performance. Catching lightning in a bottle isn't easy, doing it twice is close to impossible.

The A's are a talented bunch, of course, but they're winning games without having a single player among the AL's top 15 in batting average, on-base percentage or OPS. Instead, they do the little things, like grinding out walks, moving runners over and picking up timely hits, which can be exhausting over the course of one 162-game season, let alone two.

After last year's photo finish, the A's should be running toward the finish line on fumes this September. But they're catching wind instead, having won seven of their past eight games against respectable competition, like the Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays.

And they're cruising, despite the struggles of Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, the A's $36 million answer to sluggers like Adrian Beltre. Last year, Cespedes and Reddick combined to hit 55 home runs and drive in 167 runs while also crossing the plate 155 times themselves. With 25 games to play, Cespedes is batting .231 and Reddick, who is on the shelf with a sprained wrist, is hitting .213. Together, they've hit only 31 home runs, collected 108 RBIs and scored 109 runs.

Luckily, Brandon Moss is emerging as a reliable power hitter, Josh Donaldson is proving to be a All-Star-caliber third baseman and Jed Lowrie is second in the AL with 41 doubles. What's more, manager Bob Melvin continues to receive clutch performances from Eric Sogard, Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris and many others on his bench.

The A's have also experienced setbacks on the mound again this season. Last year, they lost Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and Brett Anderson at various points of the season and this year, they lost Anderson, again, Colon is losing steam and Tommy Milone was momentarily sent down to the minors. Fortunately, the team found the answer to its pitching woes in Sacramento, again, and this year his name is Sonny Gray.

But with a month left on the schedule, the A's still have a lot of baseball to play before they can break out the Champagne. Unless they win the World Series, this year's team isn't going wind up on the silver screen, but it is following up last summer's blockbuster with another captivating narrative, an incredible feat whichever way the story ends.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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Paul Gackle

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