OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp is the familiar face on the A's roster, the only player remaining from when Bob Melvin took over as manager back on June 21, 2011.
There's a bond between the two on this team that has gone from a club that suffered through five consecutive non-winning seasons into one that is in the midst of a run for a third consecutive postseason appearance.
And while the strong arms of the A's pitching staff get most of the attention, Crisp is as every bit a critical factor in the success of the franchise.
With apologies to Yoenis Cespedes and all the sky-is-falling moaning that his trade to Boston for lefty Jon Lester has been Oakland's undoing, what the A's really have been missing of late has been Crisp doing what he does best -- creating offense at the top of the lineup.
"It starts with him," Melvin said. "You can't put the pressure on him that he has to play well for us to win, but when we played well, he is a big part of it."
A big enough part that he is going to be around a few more years. Just before the start of Spring Training, the A's signed Crisp to a two-year, $22.75 million extension for 2015-16 with an option on '17, and not just because general manager Billy Beane claims that Crisp is the favorite player of his twins.
Get the picture?
Focus on this.
During the A's 1-6 trip to Kansas City and Atlanta, a team that had enjoyed the best record in baseball for most the season suddenly found itself in second place in the American League West, behind the surging Angels. The A's scored three or fewer runs in the six losses on that trip, and Crisp was 2-for-23. He struck out only once, but he also scored only once and drove in only one run.
And since the A's returned home?
Well, on Friday night, in the opening game of a three-game AL West showdown with the Angels, Crisp provided the offensive impetus for a 5-3 win after he had gone 3-for-10 with four RBIs in a split of a two-game series against the Mets at O.co Coliseum earlier in the week.
"Everybody is going to go through ups and downs, and this was our first," Crisp said of the recent road trip. "I still think that things are going to work out for the best."
Things were a lot better on Friday night, thanks in large part to Crisp.
Mike Trout provided the Angels a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Friday night -- his eighth career home run in the park -- but Crisp answered leading off the bottom of the first with a game-tying home run off Angels starter Hector Santiago.
"That was big," said Melvin. "They get off 1-0, and Trout has been trouble in this park before. [Crisp's home run] is like, all right, we're on the board."
And after the Angels took the lead again when Josh Hamilton homered off Sonny Gray in the fourth, it was Crisp who created the game-tying run in the fifth, doubling with one out and scoring on shortstop Erick Aybar's errant throw in an attempt to complete a double play.
"My responsibility is to play as hard as I can," said Crisp. "I try to be as consistent as possible, but when you go through those [slumps], you have to keep your head up. You have to keep working."
Crisp never quit, not even with a recurring neck problem that sidelined him July 27-Aug. 3 and still flares up.
His bat, however, is starting to warm up. He's 5-for-15 with five RBIs the last five games, and his multihit efforts on Tuesday and Friday were his first since July 8.
It's all a part of the job.
"As a leadoff hitter, when you get on base to start the game it's a positive note," he said. "You're going to help the morale [of the team]. ... In a situation like Trout's home run, and you come up and answer with a home run, that's a real morale builder."
It was the foundation for the A's to build a win on Friday night.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less