Saturday acts as dress rehearsal for A's clinch party

Melvin: A's offensive surge perfectly timed

Saturday acts as dress rehearsal for A's clinch party
September 21, 2013, 8:45 pm
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The A's clobbered the Minnesota Twins 9-1 before 26,393 fans at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

OAKLAND – The A’s were prepared for a celebration Saturday, and depending on your point of view, it was either a tease or one really effective dress rehearsal.

After clobbering the Minnesota Twins 9-1 before 26,393 fans at the Coliseum, players returned to a clubhouse covered in plastic, just in case there was champagne to be popped.

[INSTANT REPLAY: A.L. West title all but official]

It didn’t happen. The Texas Rangers defeated the Kansas City Royals 3-1 to keep Oakland’s magic number at one to clinch the American League West.

With seven games remaining, that party figures to happen, perhaps as soon as Sunday. But the A’s had lots of reasons to feel good Saturday even with their division title put on hold.

First and foremost, Yoenis Cespedes is resembling the force that Oakland needs him to be in the middle of the lineup. He homered in his third straight game and added a two-run single. That pushed his average to .361 in September (26 for 72) and lifted his overall mark to .245.

His 26 homers are one behind Brandon Moss for the team lead.

“When he's swinging the bat well, it makes everybody better throughout the lineup,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He makes you feel like you don't have to do too much. This month it's been really good. He’s driving the ball, hitting the ball the other way, the home runs ... all the things that we're used to seeing him do.”

Cespedes is key to the middle of the lineup thriving. But if Alberto Callaspo can start making things happen in the bottom half of the lineup, how much better will this offense be?

The switch-hitting Callaspo, bumped up to the fifth spot in the order when Coco Crisp was a healthy late scratch, went 4 for 5 with a home run and three RBI. In three games against the Twins this weekend, he is 7 for 11 with five RBI.

It’s a welcome contribution from the second baseman, who was acquired July 30 from the Los Angeles Angels and seems to be finding his niche with his new club. Eric Sogard provides a better glove at second base, but Callaspo’s bat is more than enough to keep him playing against lefties. And the fact he’s a switch hitter and can play multiple infield positions makes him valuable with the postseason approaching.

“We know he’s one of our guys,” winning pitcher Jarrod Parker said. “Day in and day out, he’s getting after it and doing what he does. He’s a big part of this team and we’re glad to have him.”

It was quite a postgame scene in the clubhouse. Plastic was covering all of the lockers as players sat around eating the postgame spread and rooting on the Royals against the Rangers.

[RELATED: Coliseum sewage problems grow tiresome]

A huge roar went up when Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer homered in the ninth to trim Texas’ lead to two runs. Players jokingly ordered each other to stay in their same seats lest they spoil the good vibes.

“It’s something where we know we gotta take care of what we do,” Parker said. “If we win, whatever happens is gonna take care of itself. We know it’s right there.”

That’s what’s been impressive about the A’s.

Getting denied a celebration Saturday didn’t faze them. A two-hour rain delay after a heavy morning downpour didn’t interrupt their focus. And continuing issues with their broken-down ballpark surely don’t bother them.

Another sewage problem surfaced Saturday morning when the bathroom in the coaches’ office flooded.

Players gathered around to get a look, and even the coaches themselves seemed to shrug it off as just another unique chapter in a memorable season.

The A’s could add another chapter as soon as Sunday, one that requires all that plastic in the clubhouse to actually be put to use.

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