A's trying to hold on amid extended slump
There's only a week left in the regular season, which may seem like an eternity for the Oakland Athletics.
The A's are 13-26 since Aug. 10, and a postseason spot that once seemed certain is now a bit more tenuous. The AL West title has already been lost, leaving Oakland hoping for a wild card that isn't yet assured.
But after an 8-6 win over Philadelphia on Sunday - only the second time in two weeks Oakland scored more than four runs - the A's lead Kansas City by a half-game for the American League's top wild card. Seattle is two games behind the A's - so that's the cushion for an Oakland team that simply wants to reach the finish line without losing everything.
''I think we're definitely pressing to right the ship. You can see it in our demeanor, in the way things happened,'' first baseman Brandon Moss said. ''But you're danged if you do, danged if you don't. If you go out there and look like you're just having fun, then you look like you don't care. But obviously we do, and it's just been frustrating.''
Much of the attention this week will be on the conclusion of the AL postseason race. There are still three spots available - the AL Central title and both wild cards. Detroit leads the Central by 1 1/2 games over Kansas City.
The Tigers host the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota this week, while the Royals play at Cleveland and Chicago. Seattle plays at Toronto before finishing up with three games at home against the Los Angeles Angels, who have already clinched the AL West.
Oakland hosts the Angels before a four-game series at Texas. Manager Bob Melvin still hopes the A's can recapture their swagger.
''We have not played very well these last six weeks but we have for four months - basically two years and four months,'' he said. ''All of a sudden this has taken a dramatic turn. Why? I really don't know. I wish I had an answer for that. A lot of times confidence comes from results. During times like this you have to go back to the results you've had before and use that as your confidence, because you're not getting it right now.''
Here are a few more things to watch during the final days of the regular season:
JETER'S LAST WEEK: The New York Yankees haven't quite been eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it certainly looks like Derek Jeter's final games are upon us. The Yankees wrap up their regular-season home schedule with a four-game series against Baltimore, then head to Boston for three more at Fenway Park.
TOP OF THE CHARTS: Jose Altuve of Houston leads the AL batting race by 11 points over Victor Martinez of Detroit, but the NL race is much tighter. Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison (.318) and Colorado's Justin Morneau (.318) are the front runners, with Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen (.310), San Francisco's Buster Posey (.309) and Philadelphia's Ben Revere (.308) lurking not far behind.
MILESTONE: Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is baseball's only 20-game winner so far this year, but Adam Wainwright of St. Louis has 19 and will start Monday night in Chicago against the Cubs.
NL RACES: If the season ended today, San Francisco and Pittsburgh would be the two wild cards in the National League, and with Milwaukee 4 1/2 games behind them, the Giants and Pirates appear headed to the postseason. The main source of uncertainty is the NL Central race, where Pittsburgh could still conceivably catch first-place St. Louis.
The Pirates are closing in on a second straight postseason appearance - last year was their first since 1992.
''What we did as a team, we moved on. Last year was last year,'' McCutchen said. ''It was awesome and so this year, everything is new to us. It's like anything. You fall off a bike once, it hurts but the next time you do it you're going to know next time how not to hurt yourself so bad. If there are some things that don't go our way, if we lose some games, or we're getting close to that playoff push, we know what to expect. We're comfortable.''
ANOTHER FAREWELL: Paul Konerko's final year has been overshadowed by Derek Jeter's, but the Chicago first baseman worked his way back from a broken hand this month and will finish his career when the White Sox host Kansas City for the final four games of the regular season.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jerome Williams beat Oakland three times this season - for three different teams. It was the first time since at least 1900 that anyone has done that. The right-hander beat the A's with Houston, Texas and finally Philadelphia on Saturday.