Is long layoff a gift or curse for A's?

Melvin: 'I couldn't be prouder'

Is long layoff a gift or curse for A's?
September 30, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Bob Melvin is expected to hand the ball to Bartolo Colon in Game 1 against the Tigers after the A's four-day layoff. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The theory sounds ideal for any major league team: Clinch your division, take a few days off, rest up and come out firing for the postseason.

That’s what the Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers will do before opening their American League Division Series on Friday at O.co Coliseum. But the question always surfaces in this situation, and it’s a valid one – does the time off hurt a team in the playoffs more than help?

Any team could use a little recovery time after 162 regular-season games, but sometimes it comes at the expense of momentum lost. The A’s went 19-8 in September, the second-best mark in the majors, so an argument can be made that the last thing they need is a four-day layoff between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason.

“I prefer to keep things rolling, personally,” A’s outfielder Chris Young said. “The good thing is that they’ll have the same amount of break that we have. I do think days off, that many in a row, can kind of slow things down. It’s fair because both teams are going through the same thing, (but) I would like to keep things rolling.”

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Time off is a tricky situation during the postseason. The Tigers thought they had a great thing going after sweeping the New York Yankees in last year’s American League Championship Series.

Then they took five days off before the World Series and ran into a buzz saw in the San Francisco Giants, who had to fight past the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games to win the NLCS. The Giants swept the Tigers in four games.

Young was part of the Arizona Diamondbacks team that got swept by the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 NLCS. The Rockies then had an eight-day layoff before the start of the World Series – the longest such break in major league history – while the Boston Red Sox had to make a comeback and beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games in the ALCS.

The Red Sox rode their wave of momentum to a four-game Series sweep of the Rockies.

Perhaps there’s no direct link to draw between those two examples and the situation the A’s and Tigers find themselves in entering this year’s ALDS.

The A’s certainly can benefit from four days of rest because it gives one of their most dangerous hitters, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, a chance to rest his ailing right shoulder that caused him to miss the final two regular-season games.

The young pitchers in their expected starting rotation, such as Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray, could probably use the rest too.

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But A’s manager Bob Melvin said teams that take the toughest routes through the postseason – playing more games and with less time off – are often the ones to beware of.

“Sometimes that wild card team is the most dangerous team because they’re playing every day, scratching and clawing to get in,” Melvin said. “There’s a lot of intensity in the way they play, then they move right into it.”

The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers will play a tiebreaker game Monday night for the AL’s second wild card spot. The winner of that game plays at Cleveland in the one-game wild card Wednesday, with that winner advancing to play top-seeded Boston in an ALDS series beginning Friday.

Melvin believes hitters are affected the most by a layoff leading into a postseason series. In an effort to stay sharp, the A’s will hold workouts Tuesday-Thursday, with pitchers throwing live batting practice to hitters. Oakland will also do fielding work similar to what goes on during a spring training workout.

A’s first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss thinks his team is equipped to cope with four days off.

“It’s a long time,” Moss admitted. “(But) that could play into our favor because we have a lot of guys on this team that don’t play every day as it is. So we’re used to taking a couple of days in between getting at-bats. Maybe that will help us? I don’t know.”

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