Swingin' A's not 'backing off' long ball

Crisp discusses 'Catfish' Hunter Award, game-winning home run

Swingin' A's not 'backing off' long ball
September 20, 2013, 12:00 am
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Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo and Coco Crisp accounted for six runs on three swings. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

OAKLAND -- The "Swingin' A's" are very much alive in 2013.

It was Alberto Callaspo, Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp doing damage with the lumber in Thursday night's 8-6 victory over the Twins, as the trio pushed the A's post-All-Star break home run total to an MLB-best 74.

[RECAP: A's 8, Twins 6]

And their magic number to clinch the division is down to four.

[RELATED: MLB standings]

"It makes us dangerous," said Coco Crisp, whose two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth set the final score. "You can't focus on one guy because everyone has that potential. We definitely have a lot of threats, and it takes the pressure off one guy as the power provider."

The A's have four players with 20 or more home runs for the first time since 2004, and they have seven players with 10 or more.

Crisp's blast was the most glorified Thursday, as it won the game on the day he was voted by his peers the A's most inspirational player.

[NEWS: Crisp named 'Catfish' Hunter Award winner]

"That was huge," said Sean Doolittle, who pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect baseball to win his fifth game of the season. "It's no secret what he brings to the table. He's our spark plug. Tonight is another case of him putting us on his back and getting us a win."

But the long balls from Callaspo and Lowrie were just as large.

With momentum rushing toward the visiting dugout after Oakland's bullpen gave up the lead in the top of the sixth, and two quick Oakland outs opened the bottom of the frame, manager Bob Melvin called upon Callaspo.

Where A's players had failed in 112 of 130 chances this year -- pinch hitting -- Callaspo delivered, roping a solo home run that retied the game and woke the beasts that call the A's bat racks home. It was just Callaspo's eighth of the season, and his third with the A's.

Three batters later, Lowrie delivered his shot to right. It gave the A's a three-run lead, which would usually be enough for the A's bullpen to make a hero out of the three-hitter. But on this particular night, a third home run was needed.

"I wouldn't say sigh of relief," Melvin said of his feelings after the four-run sixth inning. "Any time you extend a lead and you're multiple runs ahead, you feel good about it. But until the game's over you can't count anything out."

The A's are demonstrating they can't be counted out of anything at all. What's most impressive about the A's home runs is their context; none were meaningless. Callaspo's tied the game immediately after they fell behind. And the big flies by Lowrie and Crisp each snapped late ties.

Starting pitcher Dan Straily, who didn't factor into the decision despite throwing a career-high 105 pitches, was already out of the game and eying a loss when the long ball reversed the A's fortune.

"Any time you have that kind of offense behind you, it's a lot easier to pitch," Straily said. "Coco was so clutch. That guy's been doing it for us all season."

With MLB's best record since Aug. 25 at 18-6, the A's are building confidence at the right time and reaching the point where they expect to win, even when they are losing late. They expect someone to deliver that game-changing home run. Right now, it's working, but it might not be the wisest of strategies going into the playoffs, where they would face some of the game's most consistent shut-down bullpens.

"Similar to last year, we can manufacture runs and for a period of time there we were doing it," Melvin said. "But it's not like we're going to try to back off the long ball to do something differently. We feel like we can score in a number of different ways and right now we're hitting a lot of long balls."

A lot of long balls. Exactly 60 in the team's last 40 games.

"Hopefully we can win the division," Crisp said after a memorable day. "In order to do that, we have to win tomorrow."

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