CLEVELAND -- Run through your list of reasons why the A's have been one of the American League's best teams this season.

Certainly their pitching jumps to mind. The power through the middle of the lineup has been a key. And don't forget those 13 walk-off victories.

But consider where this team might be without center fielder Coco Crisp.

They were 28-35 before the veteran switch hitter took over the leadoff spot from Jemile Weeks on June 14. Since then, the A's have gone 41-22 and are tied for the American League's second wild-card spot entering a four-game series at Cleveland.

"I don't think it's any coincidence that when Coco got hot, so did the team," A's general manager Billy Beane said.

Crisp's overall numbers hardly dazzle: .257 batting average, eight home runs, 37 RBIs. But he's been a different player since moving atop the order.

Crisp, 32, is hitting .309 with seven home runs, 26 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 55 games since assuming the full-time leadoff spot. Compare that with a .172 average, one homer, 11 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 38 games before then, though that early stint was interrupted when he missed 16 games with lingering effects from an inner ear infection.

His on-base percentage was .234 before hitting atop the lineup and .366 since.

"He's a mainstay for us, a guy that takes pressure off everybody else," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "And I think probably a little change of scenery for him (in the batting order) was good too."


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Crisp's resurgence isn't the only reason the A's turned a corner in June. They began hitting homers in bunches around then, with cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes getting hot and first basemen Brandon Moss and Chris Carter adding pop once they were promoted from the minors.

But Crisp factors into many rallies, whether he's getting on base to start one or driving in runs himself.

"He never gives an at-bat away, that's the thing I've always appreciated about him," said Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who saw plenty of Crisp when the outfielder played with Boston from 2006-08. "He's an energizer. And the power is part of his game that will surprise you on occasion."

Maddon confirmed that the Rays went hard after Crisp last winter when he was a free agent. And Crisp said upon arriving at spring training that he thought he was Tampa Bay-bound until the A's upped their offer at the last minute and re-signed him to a two-year, $14 million contract.

A bit later in camp, Crisp had second thoughts about his decision when the A's shifted him to left field to accommodate Cespedes, who played center in Cuba before signing with Oakland in February.

Crisp went so far as to tell USA Today that had he known the A's planned to shift him to left, he would have signed with the Rays. By late May, Crisp -- whose sure hands and terrific range help offset a weak throwing arm -- was shifted back to center and Cespedes settled in left.

Crisp downplays the topic now when asked about his feelings during the spring.

"I could care less about a lot of things -- left field, center field, leadoff, all that stuff," Crisp said. "I just go out there and play."

Melvin said he likes his current outfield alignment, but the A's have a decision to make moving forward.

Cespedes looks more comfortable in center than in left, though he has misjudged some balls at both spots this season. With Crisp under contract through next season, do the A's keep Cespedes in left?

"We're trying to create the best outfield with three possible guys," Beane said. "We'll have to wait and see how the roster configuration is before making definite statements."

What's certain to Melvin is how much Crisp means to this current team.

"When he's playing well, we tend to play well."

  • The A's optioned right-hander Jesse Chavez to Triple-A Sacramento. He was acquired from Toronto for cash on Friday.

    For more on the A's, go to Joe Stiglich's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics and follow him at twitter.com/joestiglich.