Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'

September 29, 2012, 6:58 am
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OAKLAND -- Two days ago, Coco Crisp couldn't make out faces in the crowd from the dugout. Less than 72 hours later, he's the man of the clubhouse after his 3-for-5 performance left little doubt that he belongs in the starting lineup -- with or without perfect vision.

"He's something," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It starts with him, all the way around."

Fighting through an eye infection that doctors tell him could last up to three months, Crisp's active red blood cells are still causing some blurry vision in his eyes, but he saw his first-inning shot travel over the right-field wall clear as day.

"The leadoff homer was huge," Sean Doolittle said. "He's such a spark for our offense."

Crisp's goals for the game were considerable lower than his output.

"More than I was expecting," Crisp said. "I was just trying to have quality at-bats. With just six games left, I wanted to get some kind of rhythm to be able to help the team."

He did. But playing in a day game Saturday after Friday's night game, Crisp is wary that his sensitive-to-light eyes will be ready.

"We'll see," Crisp said. "I'm just hoping that each day they get better. If that's the case, then I shouldn't have any problems."

Crisp wasn't the only outfielder to put together an impressive and complete game.

Yoenis Cespedes' stats belie his impact on the A's 8-2 win over Seattle Friday night. He finished 0-for-3, but Melvin is convinced his scorched shot in the hole -- ruled an error -- deserved a hit.

"That's a quality shortstop and that ball just ate him up it got on him so fast," Melvin said. "So I don't agree with that call."

Cespedes' next at-bat came against flamethrower Stephen Pryor. After swinging through the first two strikes, Cespedes showed veteran discipline on pitches touching 97 miles per hour, working a bases-loaded walk that put the game out of reach.

"One of the key at-bats of the game was that walk," Melvin said. "He's down two strikes, lays off a pitch, gets to 3-2 and takes a walk and we score some runs. "

And his full-extension catch in the eighth inning was a Golden Great all the way. Making it look easy, Cespedes has come a long way from the beginning of the season when he was regularly misplaying balls in center field. The growth registers with his manager.

"Now, all of a sudden, he's just a good left fielder," Melvin said. "He's a natural out there."

The stout defense helped the A's bullpen preserve rookie A.J. Griffin's seventh win in 14 starts as he bounced back from two previous rough outings. While he was happy to get back on track, he is well aware that his next slated start lands on the final day of the season. He's been thinking about it, too.

"Not going to lie, yeah," Griffin acknowledged. "But that's the fun part of this business. You get to go out there and pitch in games that matter. I just want to give us a good chance to win ballgames."

Griffin's admission that his next start has already entered his thoughts should come as no surprise. The A's are locked in a tight playoff race with four other teams, and they are making a serious attempt at focusing on only the things they can control, which means no scoreboard watching.

"We're trying not to pay attention to what other teams are doing," Doolittle said. "It's tough this time of year. But we're really trying to focus on everything in here. If we take care of business, it doesn't matter what anybody else does. That's our only goal at this point -- staying focused."

Doolittle and his teammates are buying into Melvin's only goal for the final five games: "Playing hard tomorrow." After watching the A's go all out on the field and commit to the team-first attitude in the clubhouse, even Coco Crisp can see that clearly.