Maybe it's because managers, by their nature, think about all the negative things that can happen to their team -- instead of all the positives.
But as the Oakland A's went into their four-game series against Cleveland with a massive seven-game lead, A's manager Ken Macha was anything but happy or relaxed.
To anybody who would listen, or wouldn't listen, Macha would bring up how well Cleveland pitches against the A's, and how the matchups don't look very favorable for the A's.
After Monday's game, Macha looked fairly prophetic after Jake Westbrook handcuffed the A's for seven quality innings.
Macha looked even more clairvoyant as the A’s initially struggled against Cleveland starter Cliff Lee. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Oakland’s offense looked dead in the water before left-fielder Bobby Kielty sent a first pitch fastball deep into the Oakland night for his first career grandslam. The clutch two-out homer turned a one-run deficit into a three-run lead for the A’s and seemed to relax a dugout that had started to worry after losing the first game of the series.
The homer knocked Cliff Lee, who had dominated the A's previously, out of the game in the sixth inning en route to a 7-3 triumph over the Indians.
Kielty’s teammates streamed out of the dugout after his monstrous blast and celebrated with him as if the homer had been in a playoff game. For many of the A’s players who have never been to the post-season (including Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall) these games are like playoff games. As the magic number dwindles for Oakland, many of the A’s are starting to taste the post-season berth that has alluded them over the past two Septembers.
The Angels won, so the A's lead remains 6 1/2 games in the AL West, and their "magic number" is still six. The earliest the A's can now clinch the division is Saturday. They can clinch a tie Friday.
The A's pitchers don't rank highly in strikeouts, but they fanned 17 in nine innings, led by 11 by starter Kirk Saarloos. Those 17 K's were the most for the A's since April 19, 1986, at Seattle. Jose Rijo fanned 16 in eight innings in that contest and Bill Mooneyham added the last two in the ninth inning. The Indians lead the league in strikeouts.
REPLAY: Bobby Kielty's grand slam was the big blow for the A's, and Kielty received a curtain call from the boisterous Coliseum crowd. All the A's runs scored via home runs. Eric Chavez hit a solo homer and Nick Swisher hit a two-run blast for the final runs in the 7-3 win over Cleveland. Swisher holds the A’s franchise record for homeruns in a single season by a switch-hitter with 32. Swisher hit his homer on Tuesday batting right-handed, which has been his weaker power side this season.
Starter Kirk Saarloos allowed two runs in five innings. Five relievers closed out the victory. Chad Gaudin pitched a scoreless sixth to get the win. Justin Duchscherer got the final out in the seventh and pitched a scoreless eighth. When Brad Halsey allowed two hits to start the ninth, Huston Street came into a non-save situation and closed it out.
--Crazy George, the famed professional fan, will make his return to the Coliseum on Friday night against the Angels. Crazy George's attendance will be part of the 25-year anniversary of the fan's alleged creation of "the wave" during the 1981 AL Championship Series. Although some claim the “wave” actually began at a Kansas football game, Crazy George’s “wave” during the A’s-Yankees playoff game was the first time it was captured on television. ESPN is airing a special to commemorate the occasion. Crazy George was a regular at the Coliseum in the early 80s and would routinely lead the crowd in cheers from atop of the dugouts.
--RHP Kirk Saarloos struck out a season-high 11 batters in five innings on the night, which is exceptionally rare, because Saarloos had the fewest strikeouts per nine innings (2.99) in Oakland history a year ago. The sinker-baller, who lives off grounders, got just one ground ball out on the night.
--3B Eric Chavez connected on his 20th home run Tuesday, his seventh straight year with 20 or more home runs. The 20 is his lowest, however, since hitting 13 as a rookie in 1999.
--CF Jay Payton went 1-for-4 in the game and is hitting exactly .300 on the year. He's the only A's player at or over .300 this year (Jason Kendall is at .295). A year ago, 2B Mark Ellis, at .316, was the only A's player over .300, and only two players did it in 2004 -- Mark Kotsay (.314) and Erubiel Durazo (.321).