ARLINGTON, Texas -- In the first three games after the All-Star break last year, the A's went into Minnesota, hit nine home runs, swept the Twins and wound up hitting homers and winning for most of the rest of the season.
The 112 homers in 76 games transformed the A's from a one-run-at-a-time team to a score-in-bunches team, and that was in large measure the backbone of the A's come-from-behind win in the American League West in 2012.
Now the A's are at it again. Since Aug. 9 the A's lead the major leagues with 52 homers, 131 extra-base hits and a .497 slugging percentage. It took a while for the wins to catch up with homers this time. Manager Bob Melvin said the four-game series in Detroit Aug. 26-29 is 2013's pivot point.
"We seem to find one series that serves as a springboard,'' Melvin said when asked about the A's 66 second-half homers, one behind Major League leader Washington over that stretch. "Last year it was the sweep in Minnesota. This time it was the series in Detroit.''
The homers, 29 in 18 games, during which the club is 14-4 entering Saturday's second game of the series against the second-place Rangers, have been most welcome. They've made life easier for the A's pitching staff, which now can afford to make mistakes although, with rare exceptions like Friday's six-run Texas eighth inning, the pitchers have been as solid as ever.
Balfour appeared to be put off by the fact that he wasn't used as expected.
The manager said the matchups in the ninth inning favored Doolittle, who has been pitching better lately after some August woes. And Balfour has struggled with overwork and command issues.
"Doolittle's been pitching really well and Grant has been overextended,'' Melvin said. "And the matchups in the ninth inning suggested Doolittle.''
Melvin also said that if Balfour pitched Friday, it would be two days in a row for him and that he'd probably be unavailable for Saturday's game.
He made it clear that Balfour is the closer, but he had faith "in all three members of the back of the bullpen'' — Ryan Cook in addition to Doolittle and Balfour.
It wouldn't come as a major show, however if Cook was back in a tough spot Saturday or Sunday.
"I don't know if there is anything like that in this ballpark,'' Melvin said when asked if he'd look for a less high intensity game for Cook's next appearance.
"He's yanking the fastball off the play and missing with the slider away. Everybody goes through periods when they're not at their best."