Winning ‘contagious’ for A’s 

click to enlarge Coco Crisp
  • Charles Cherney/AP file photo
  • Coco Crisp and the A's have been keeping games close and coming through with that late-game magic that helped them succeed in 2012.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson sees plenty of similarities between this A's team and the one that stunned the Texas Rangers on the season's final day last fall.

Going on a year after the A's made their remarkable turnaround and their push to a surprising AL West title, the defending division champions are on a roll again.

"It's contagious, winning, you know? It's about confidence," closer Grant Balfour said. "You see a guy get a big hit and the next guy comes up and does his job."

The A's have had their share of struggles in the first half, too, not so different from all of those Oakland teams of the past that took off after the All-Star break.

While Oakland (38-27) dropped the final two games of its seven-game road trip in Chicago, the A's have won seven of 10 and 18 of 23. They entered Monday's off day a half-game back in the AL West race behind Texas (37-25).

Starting tonight, the A's will get another tough home test when the New York Yankees visit the Coliseum for a three-game series.

Less than three weeks ago, things didn't look so good. The A's returned from a rough 3-7 road trip and lost for the eighth time in 10 games in a 3-1 home defeat to the Rangers on May 22.

Oakland then rattled off a five-game winning streak that featured a three-game sweep at Houston and won the first three in a four-game Bay Bridge Series against the 2012 World Series champion Giants.

Significant progress by the starting pitchers has been a big part of the recent run.

"There's no doubt that's been a key for us," manager Bob Melvin said. "Earlier in the season, the offense was ruling the day, we were scoring a lot of runs and making up for the ERA as a team we're not used to looking at. All of a sudden you come into closer games and we're giving up some runs earlier in the game and it's a little different story."

In those tight games, Oakland is showing some of the late-game magic that helped define last year's special season, when the A's became the first team in major league history to win a division or pennant after trailing by five games with less than 10 to play.

Oakland has 10 wins in games decided in the final at-bat.

"This is kind of more of the recipe we did last year," Donaldson said. "We know we have the guys here who can pitch. Early on they kind of got off to a little rough start and the bats were able to pick them up. But lately what's been separating us from the other teams is our pitching by far — from the starter to every reliever that comes in and Balfour shutting the door. This is something we're definitely going to have to do over the course of the year."


A's vs. Yankees

WHEN: Today, 7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Coliseum, Oakland

TV: Comcast SportsNet California


STARTERS: CC Sabathia (6-4, 3.74 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (7-2, 3.14 ERA)

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