ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For a couple of months, when the A's watched the scoreboard, their eyes drifted natural toward the Texas Rangers. It was important to see how the A.L. West competition was doing.
For a couple of days, the focus has been on the Detroit Tigers.
Now it's time for Oakland to focus on the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox have the best record in the American League, 95-63. The A's, even after a 3-0 loss to the Angels Tuesday, have the second-best record in the AL, 94-64.
That one-game deficit is what stands between the A's betting home field advantage all the way through the playoffs and not.
There are a series of tiebreaking rules in place, and all four of them favor Oakland.
-- The first is head-to-head, and the A's and Red Sox split the six games they played.
-- The second is intradivision results. Should Oakland and Boston finish with the same record, the top seed is the team with the best record in its own division. Assuming the two teams finish with the same record after 162 games, the best the Red Sox can do is finish in a tie with the A's.
-- The third is intraleague results (games against all AL teams). If the two teams finish with the same record after 162 games, the best the Red Sox can do, again, is tie the A's.
-- The fourth is the comparative records over the last half of intraleague games. This odd one measures the results over the last 71 games against American League competition only. And if the A's and Red Sox finish with the same record after 162 games, the A's will have a better record in all scenarios.
"Right now we are trying to play for the best record and home field advantage," A's first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss told Bay Area News Group readers in an exclusive online chat early Tuesday afternoon. "We want to be sure whoever we play, we play them at home more than at their place."
The Red Sox lost earlier Tuesday evening to the Rockies in Colorado, 8-3, so the A's had a chance to jump into a tie for the home field advantage with a win over the Angels in Anaheim.
It didn't happen. A club that had won its last five games by a collective 49-19 score found itself cooled off most effectively by Angels' lefty Jason Vargas, who threw a four-hit shutout, the first complete game shutout against the A's this season.
Angels' second baseman Howie Kendrick hit a solo homer in the first inning and center fielder Josh Hamilton blooped in a two-run bases-loaded single off A's starter A.J. Griffin in the third, and that was more than enough.
Vargas allowed four singles in the first eight innings. Two of the base runners were wiped out by double plays and a third, Alberto Callaspo, was thrown out on an ill-advised try to stretch a single into a double.
He then issued a one-out walk in the ninth, but that was it as Oakland, averaging almost 10 runs per game the last five games, never got a runner to second base. It was Vargas's fifth career shutout.
-- The A's won't be naming their starting pitcher for the first game of the playoffs until this weekend at the earliest, and manager Bob Melvin said the club has plenty of time to work out various permutations of the roster. What the club does know is that after ending the season Sunday in Seattle, the club will give everybody the day off, then begin workouts starting Tuesday.
-- With no games scheduled between the regular season finale Sunday in Seattle and the start of the playoffs the following Friday, the club may have an intrasquad game or a simulated game in an effort to keep players fresh.
-- Talking before Tuesday's game, Melvin said that not all roster decisions had been made, although he jokingly allowed that team home run leader Brandon Moss had made the roster. The A's almost certainly will go from five starting pitchers to four, and the club will have to decide if that means adding a starter to the bullpen or having a starter replace someone in the bullpen.
-- Catcher Derek Norris started taking grounders at first regularly the last two days after Melvin called him into his office Monday afternoon to ask him to take on first base. The club's only right-handed hitting first baseman, Nate Freiman, is out with abdominal pain. Norris was asked about the huge smile he was wearing when exiting Melvin's office. "It was exciting," he said. "It's not every day you get news like that. I have no idea where it goes from here, but if I can do something to help the team and get in the lineup, I'm more than willing to get my feet wet there."
-- Catcher John Jaso went 1-for-2 with two walks in four plate trips in his first instructional league game Tuesday. Jaso is hoping to come back from missing more than two months because of concussion problems. It's not at all certain that he will be cleared to play, at least for the first round, but if he is, he would be limited to a designated hitter/pinch hitter role. He could get a look in whatever intrasquad or simulated games are played next week.
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