Four players are key down the stretch for Giants, A’s 

There hasn't been a great deal of good news involving the recently flailing A's, who have managed to morph from World Series juggernaut to postseason question mark in a stunningly short span.

The Giants underwent that very metamorphosis a couple months ago, and now they appear to be morphing right back.

It's been nothing short of fascinating to watch, and it sets up what could be the most exciting stretch drive we've seen in these parts in years.

The much-dissected trade of Yoenis Cespedes has a no doubt played a role in Oakland's about-face, but of equal if not greater impact has been a spate of injuries even the deepest and most versatile rosters would be hard-pressed to counter.

Specifically, the injuries to Coco Crisp and Sean Doolittle.

There are three types of players that a team mired in a dogfight can't do without: the middle-of-the-order beast that teams flat-out fear, the heart-and-soul sparkplug whose mere presence breeds clubhouse-wide confidence, and the throw-him-out-there-and-it's-OVER closer. With Cespedes gone and Crisp and Doolittle on the sideline, the A's hit a trifecta of terror.

Not surprisingly, the losses piled up, the division lead disappeared and slowly but surely the division deficit soared.

The acquisition of Adam Dunn mitigates the loss of Cespedes to a degree, assuming his first few days in green and gold represent what can be reasonably expected going forward, but remember that the loss of Cespedes was planned. Self-imposed. The losses of Crisp and Doolittle were not, so getting them back on the field and quickly back up to speed is the only way the A's are going to overcome the juggernaut that the Los Angeles Angels have themselves suddenly morphed into.

We've seen what the A's offense looks like without Coco, and it's bland beyond belief. And we've seen way too much of what the ninth inning looks like without Doolittle -- iffy at best.

Meanwhile, the Giants have their own issues with their leadoff man and closer. Angel Pagan is every bit the proverbial straw, as is Crisp, and who the hell saw that coming two years ago? At closer, they've got Santiago Casilla in the role and Sergio Romo available as Plan A-turned-B.

Upon being acquired, Pagan was viewed here as little more than a slightly more gifted Andres Torres, and that's not saying much. But there's no denying his importance to the club, spiritually and physically. When he's in there, the Giants usually win. When he's not, they generally don't.

As for Casilla, he has the stuff to dominate, but the question has always been his mentality when things get tough. To put it lightly, he's a spaz. And spazzing out rarely plays in a pennant race. If only he had the heart of Romo, whose shelf life as a lights-out reliever in any role appears to have passed.

Two teams, four guys. No pressure, fellas, but it's all on you.

About The Author

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban

Bio:
Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).
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