Why the Oakland A’s will win the pennant:

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Photo Credit: Max Felsenstein

Taking a 2-1 series lead, the A’s may surprise with a pennant win without a star-studded lineup.

by Max Felsenstein, Coach Beat Writer

Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Bartolo Colon highlight a 96 win Oakland Athletics’ team that seems destined to win the pennant.

Now, why the A’s? They don’t have a rotation comprised of Verlander and Scherzer; they don’t have a Yasiel Puig or Andrew McCutchen. Many teams, such as the Dodgers and Tigers, are star-studded. Yet what the A’s lack in star power, they make up for with team chemistry.

“If you have true chemistry on your team, it will be like tomorrow I added a superstar to your roster— a twenty game winner, a top closer, or a 30/30/30 middle-of-the-lineup hitter,” Roland Hemond once told the notable former manager, Tony La Russa, in his book “One Last Strike.”

With an absence of recognizable names, the A’s needed to find players who could establish themselves as reliable everyday players. Josh Donaldson, Oakland’s third baseman soon found himself in the spotlight, as he took the role as leader for the club with his .301/24/93 batting line.

Behind Donaldson’s proficient performance throughout the season, he led Oakland to the playoffs as they coasted past the Texas Rangers to win their second straight division title. In the American League Division Series, Oakland found themselves with arguably their toughest assignment, taking on Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers.

In the playoffs, anything is possible. With ace Bartolo Colon on the mound in Game 1 vs. CY Young-candidate, Max Scherzer, the Athletics certainly had a chance, but, in the top of the first inning, Detroit scored three runs off Colon and that proved to be all Detroit needed as they won by a final score of 3-2.

Now, the A’s were done, right? Wrong. They turned to rookie, Sonny Gray, who had made only 10 starts in his Major League career. Gray had a tenacious task as he opposed 2011 Most Valuable Player and CY-Young award winner, Justin Verlander. Last postseason, Verlander was as dominant as ever against Oakland, throwing a complete-game shutout in Game 5.

In Game 2 of the ALDS this postseason, Gray matched Verlander pitch for pitch as neither pitcher would give in to their opponent. Verlander was taken out of a 0-0 game in the seventh due to a high pitch count. Gray would pitch the eighth as the score was still 0-0. Athletics’ manager, Bob Melvin then took the game out of Gray’s hands and put it on closer, Grant Balfour who would pitch a scoreless top of the ninth inning.

Detroit reliever, Al Alburquerque gave up a lead off single to Cespedes, followed by a single from outfielder Seth Smith that would put Cespedes and Smith at first and third with nobody out. Alburquerque would then intentionally walk Josh Reddick to load the bases; Jim Leyland had seen enough from his reliever as he brought New Jersey Native, Rick Porcello to face catcher, Stephen Vogt. Vogt, with only 34 hits in his Major League career, would now be counted upon to deliver a hit in the key-spot in the game.

The count was even at 1-1 as Vogt lined Porcello’s offering into left-center field for a walk-off single.

With the series knotted at 1-1, the momentum shifted to Oakland’s favor. With Anibal Sanchez, the 2013 ERA leader, taking the hill for Detroit, Oakland had another tough mission at hand. The A’s struck early in the third inning when Miguel Cabrera committed an error which led to Oakland’s first run. Josh Reddick then homered in the fourth followed by a sacrifice fly from Coco Crisp, which would increase Detroit’s deficit to 3.

With the Tiger’s highly prolific offense, they scored 3 in the bottom of the fourth to even the score. But, Oakland wasn’t done. They struck again with a solo home run from Brandon Moss and a two-run homer from Seth Smith, which would ultimately put the game out of Detroit’s reach.

Now, up 2-1 in the series, Oakland will hand the ball to rookie, Dan Straily to try and finish off Detroit in this best of 5 series.

Local students have been following the outcome of this pennant race, as well, although the local New York teams were not part of the playoffs.  Glen Rock High School sophomore, Jack Jensen said, “It will be no easy task for the A’s but with a little bit of luck and their team chemistry, I know they can pull it off.”