ARLINGTON -- Sixteen of Oakland's final 19 games come against teams in
the playoff race, with six games each against the American League West-leading
Rangers and closely following Angels, and a four-game series against
the Tigers, who are more comfortably ahead in the AL Central.
If Oakland plays well in the final weeks of the season, it could have
serious ramifications on the division races, especially in the West.
"It should be a motivator for you," manager Bob Melvin said of
playing against contenders. "You always want to go out and win the
game, obviously, but knowing that the teams you're playing have that
much more to play for should incentivize the games for you."
Typically, teams that are eliminated -- or nearly eliminated -- from
postseason contention still field the best lineups they can when playing
contenders down the stretch.
"That's kind of the norm when you're playing against teams like that,"
Melvin said. "Now, if you have a younger player who's
playing better than a veteran, you're [more] apt to do that, plus
there are some guys we want to take a look at. But I don't think we'll
be affected that much by it."
When teams without playoff hopes meet, managers feel free to use
younger players and evaluate prospects -- but Melvin may have to wait
to do that until the final series of the season, against the Mariners.