OAKLAND -- The A's made a triumphant return home Friday night, and much of that was a result of Coco Crisp making a triumphant return to touching home.
Crisp has been battling allergic conjunctivitis, a form of pinkeye, for the better part of two weeks. But as Oakland began its six-game Coliseum quest to gain some form of a postseason berth, its dynamic leadoff hitter clearly looked to be in the pink again.
Crisp had three hits, including a homer to lead off the bottom of the first inning, and scored three times as the A's beat the Seattle Mariners 8-2 before a crowd of 16,376. In the process, they reduced their magic number to earn a playoff spot to four with five games to play.
The A's maintained a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card spot and closed within three games of American League West leader Texas.
Crisp hadn't played a full game since Sept. 15, and did not have a hit or a run scored in the past 11 games, missing eight of them altogether because of his condition. He was a late decision for the starting lineup, but after successfully going through pregame workouts, he wasted no time showing his importance to the A's for this final push.
"He's something," said manager Bob Melvin. "He could get up in December and probably get three hits."
His first hit in this game, to be sure, set the tone for the entire evening. Crisp worked a 3-2 count against Seattle starter Blake Beavan (10-11), then drilled the sixth pitch over the right field wall for his 11th homer and his first since Sept. 1.
"I did more than I was expecting, obviously, with the home run and everything," said Crisp. "I was just looking to go up there, have some quality at-bats, and try to see the ball."
Crisp hasn't been able to see much of anything lately, let alone a baseball coming at him at 90 mph. His malady has resulted in both blurred and double vision, and he's not completely well yet. He said doctors have told him a complete recovery could take anywhere from six weeks to three months, but his vision finally has improved enough to allow him to play. Up until then, though, no chance.
"Standing in the dugout, I couldn't make out people's faces in the stands," he said. "If I was looking up at some words at a distance, I'd see two of the same words if I even can make it out. So it's been really tough."
But during the A's final game in Texas, even though he didn't play, Crisp started to notice that faces in the stands looked sharper. He felt confident that Friday "might be the day."
Melvin took no chances. He wanted Crisp to go through batting practice and take several balls in the outfield, then make the call himself whether he was ready.
"We just didn't want to put him in a position where something dangerous could happen if he didn't see the ball very well," Melvin said. "I think it was just as important to get him comfortable in the outfield seeing the ball. We talked to him right after batting practice, and he said, 'Let's try it.' It seemed to work."
Seattle tied the game on Trayvon Robinson's solo shot against A's starter A.J. Griffin in the second, but the A's regained the lead when Stephen Drew hit a two-run homer, his seventh overall and fifth with Oakland, against Beavan in the third.
Crisp struck again in the fifth, hitting a two-out double down the left field line. The A's subsequently loaded the bases, and Crisp wound up scoring on a passed ball.
The A's finally broke open the game with four-run seventh, and Crisp was in the middle of it again. He had an infield single during the rally and wound up scoring on second baseman Dustin Ackley's errant throw to home plate on an infield-in grounder. Josh Donaldson had a two-run single that put the game away.
Griffin (7-1) pitched 52/3 innings and allowed four hits, walked two and struck out four. He loaded the bases in the sixth on a hit, a walk and a hit by pitch. Sean Doolittle came on to get the last out of the inning, retiring Justin Smoak on a fly to right.
"It's going to be really nice, one to cure the boredom from the last couple of weeks, but also to get back around the guys and the atmosphere again," McCarthy said.
McCarthy made himself available to the Bay Area media for the first time since being hit in the head with a line drive on Sept. 5, an incident that resulted in surgery. McCarthy made a brief visit to the clubhouse during the A's last home series against Baltimore but stayed only long enough to chat with teammates.
"Being in the clubhouse was nice, but it was still kind of limited as to how long I could stay there, and the doctors were kicking me out," he said. "Now I can be in the dugout and be around and see a game atmosphere again. I think it's kind of what I need to get my mind off everything and get back to doing stuff and having some mental stimulation again."
The pitcher expressed thanks to thousands of well-wishers who responded to his injury and subsequent surgery with concern and sympathy but also encouragement.
"It is touching and it does help, especially when you get in those little moments when you're feeling sorry for yourself or just feeling lonely or bored," he said. "I can't thank everybody enough."
Gomes, a native of Petaluma, was honored for myriad charitable endeavors but was primarily noted for helping raise money to defray expenses for the Petaluma Little League team members and their families in their venture to Williamsport, Pa.
"You don't try to win this award," said Gomes. "But it's nice to have an award that has his name (Stewart's) on it considering his work ethic both on and off the field."
Seattle (Jason Vargas 14-11) at A's (Dan Straily 2-1), 1:05 p.m. CSNCA
4 Combination of A's wins and Angels losses to clinch A.L. wild-card spot.
A.L. West race
W L Pct. GB
Texas 92 65 .586 --
A's 89 68 .567 3
A.L. Wild-card race
W L Pct. GB
Baltimore 90 67 .573 --
A's 89 68 .567 --
L.A. Angels 87 70 .554 2
Tampa Bay 86 71 .548 3
Note: Top two teams earn wild-card berths.
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