Rewind: A's need to finish first half on high note

Rewind: A's need to finish first half on high note
July 12, 2014, 11:00 pm
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Jesse Chavez gave up just three runs in 5.2 innings on Saturday, but Hisashi Iwakuma outpitched him. (USATSI)

Programming note: A’s-Mariners coverage starts Sunday at 12:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California

A four-day break must look pretty good to the A’s right now.

It will look a lot better Sunday night if they’re viewing it through the lense of a series-ending victory at Safeco Field.

It goes without saying that any major league team wants to avoid a sweep after dropping the first two of a three-game series. But given the way the first two games of the weekend have played out against the Seattle Mariners, Sunday afternoon’s contest would appear to carry a bit more weight for the A’s leading into the All-Star break.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Iwakuma shuts down A's, Mariners win 6-2]

The A’s have mustered barely an offensive whimper so far, totaling just four runs in two games and scoring in just two of the 18 innings the teams have played. Meanwhile, they’ve watched the surging Los Angeles Angels win nine of their past 10 and climb to within 1 ½ games of the American League West lead. The Mariners are a bit farther back at seven games out, but they’ve got to be feeling pretty good about themselves given the way the weekend has unfolded to this point.

It’s not that Sunday’s game means a ton in context of the standings. It’s only game No. 95 out of 162, after all. But there’s psychology to consider here. Going away for four days and savoring a victory that avoided a sweep is easier to digest than three consecutive losses to a team chasing you in the division.

Plus, numbers are numbers. At best, the A’s can be up 2 ½ games in the A.L. West by the end of Sunday. At worst, they could be only a half-game up. And doesn’t it just seem like there’s a big difference between the two?

It’s up to right-hander Sonny Gray to set the tone for the A’s on Sunday, and perhaps there’s not a better starter they’d like to hand the ball to. Gray has allowed just two runs combined over his past two starts (14 innings), and he enters 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners.

Will the A’s have their full assortment of weapons backing him? Manager Bob Melvin hinted to reporters Saturday night that center fielder and leadoff man Coco Crisp may rest for a fourth consecutive game as he battles recurring neck soreness and other minor ailments. That would make sense from the standpoint that it could amount to eight valuable days of rest including the All-Star break, and perhaps the veteran could come back refreshed and ready to roll.

Yoenis Cespedes? Melvin had to be holding his breath a bit when Cespedes pulled up grimacing after running out a fourth-inning grounder Saturday night and feeling tightness in his hamstring. He got a visit from trainers, stretched out a little and stayed in the game. Melvin said Cespedes might serve as designated hitter Sunday.

The slugger is mired in a 3-for-41 slump for the month. He could use a good day to give him some encouraging vibes going into a busy couple of days of All-Star activity. More than anything, the A’s need him to come out of the break healthy just like Crisp.

Still, one game remains before the A’s disperse for their extended hiatus. And though it might not have huge ramifications in and of itself, claiming a ‘W’ on Sunday would sure make those four days off a lot more enjoyable.

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