The Oakland Athletics have to be nearly perfect to pull out the AL West title, and manager Ken Macha is sure his team understands its predicament.
“The guys know what’s at stake, and they’re playing with urgency,” Macha said.
With a huge four-game series against the division-leading Los Angeles Angels looming, the A’s will try to maintain their focus and intensity as they close out a weekend set with the visiting Texas Rangers.
Oakland, which lost the West title to Los Angeles on the final weekend of the season last year, is hoping for a reversal of that outcome in 2005. However, the A’s had lost two straight and four of seven to see their deficit in the division swell to four games before stopping the bleeding with Saturday’s 7-6 win over Texas.
Jason Kendall came through with a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth as Oakland overcame a three-run deficit to remain in realistic postseason contention. The A’s remained four games out with eight to play after the Angels beat Tampa Bay for their eighth straight win Saturday.
“It’s a good win today, not a must-win but pretty darn important,” designated hitter Scott Hatteberg said. “The little things are something we’ve really got to do consistently.”
Kendall, who spent the previous nine years in Pittsburgh on a perennial non-contender, is enjoying the September stretch.
“I’m having the time of my life,” said Kendall, whose Pirates teams never had a record above .500 after Sept. 1. “We’re still having fun. We’ve got to win.”
The A’s are trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season after a stretch of four straight postseason berths from 2000-2003. Oakland went 7-20 in May with two eight-game losing streaks before bouncing back with another of the club’s second-half surges to make things interesting.
“We’re going out there fighting,” said rookie first baseman Dan Johnson. “Every game is huge for us right now. We’re not going to quit until the last out is made. … That’s the kind of guys we’ve got on this team.”
Relegated to playing spoiler after contending for the division title into September last season, the Rangers have lost four of five, with the lone victory coming in Friday’s series opener.
Michael Young, the AL’s leading hitter, extended his career-best hitting streak to 21 games with an infield single in the third, added a tiebreaking RBI single in the fifth and also singled in a run in the ninth for Texas.
“I’m really trying not to think about (the hitting streak),” Young said. “I’ve been doing the best I can to just focus on finishing out the schedule for the right reasons, and that’s to try to help the team win as many games.”