A's have plenty to figure out beyond clinching AL playoff spot

Ray Ratto
NBC Sports BayArea
<p>The biggest advantage of the A's finishing the job at home would have been finishing the job, period. </p>

A's have plenty to figure out beyond clinching AL playoff spot

The biggest advantage of the A's finishing the job at home would have been finishing the job, period.

OAKLAND -- Climax met anti for the A's on Sunday, which is probably as it should be. After all, had they beaten the Minnesota Twins and locked up their American League playoff invitation, they'd have done it in nearly total seclusion.
On a Sunday when Tiger Woods shaved 10 years off his career, when Jimmy Garoppolo crumpled his left knee, when the Oakland Raiders buried themselves with another horrific second half of football, and with the Warriors preparing to retake everyone's eyeballs, the A's stood no chance of getting anyone beyond their diehardiest diehards to notice them at all.
Fortunately for their collective self-esteem, the A's are used to being visible only under ultraviolet light, so losing 5-1 to Kyle Gibson and the Minnesota Twins on Fan Appreciation Day was only disappointing to them. They wanted to provide one final serendipitous show in this wondrous season to the folks who maintained interest and faith even when they looked their usual ordinary selves in the first three months. Instead, they got worked. 
"This was disappointing because we wanted to do it here," A's manager Bob Melvin said after a game that resisted his team's late-inning charms by being settled in the fourth inning. "If we could have gotten another runner on base in the eighth or ninth, the fans would've gotten into it more, and when they get noisy, we like to put a show on for them."
But the show was mostly Minnesota's, on a first-inning home run by Jake Cave and then a messy fourth highlighted by third baseman Matt Chapman's rushed and errant throw to second base seeking a double play that wasn't going to happen. That, and Gibson's seven-plus innings of throwing balls that looked like strikes to a series of overeager Athletics hitters were more than enough for the Twins to create a healthy early lead that they preserved with very little bother.
It was additionally galling because the New York Yankees lost to the Cleveland Spiders ... er, the Baltimore Orioles, and the A's could have closed to within a half-game in the standings, and a full game in reality of having home field in the wild card game.
Thus, a chance to leave town with the defeaning roar of approval from a healthy crowd of 35,754 ringing in their ears was lost, and what was gained was 30-plus extra boxes of miscellaneous celebratory whatnot to put on the plane to Seattle for a series that begins Monday night.
The A's also got minimal clarity on starting pitcher Trevor Cahill, who had what Melvin described as "good movement and decent velocity," but only 3 1/3 innings of actual work. That might have stretched to five or more if Chapman's throwing error hadn't turned a routine fielder's choice by Tyler Austin into a three-run rally. The A's bullpen, which has been a strength most of the year, has been kicking up blue smoke much of the past few weeks, so sorting out a relatively traditional starting rotation for the postseason remains Job One.
In other words, Mike Fiers starting against the Yankees is looking increasingly likely, though as Melvin correctly said, "There are a lot of things that have to get sorted out between now and [the postseason]."
Including the as-yet-undone task of getting into the damned thing. True, they have six more cracks to shoehorn themselves into October, and if that isn't enough, they have an additional six courtesy the Tampa Bay Rays.
But the biggest advantage of finishing the job at home was finishing the job, period. The A's have worked very diligently for three-plus months to have these conundrums, and could use the time between now and the end of business to sort them all out. They could especially do so in a relatively quiet atmosphere that the simultaneous ends of two NFL seasons, the renewed beatification of Tiger Woods, and the Golden State Warriors will only make more difficult.

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