With a 6-16 home record at the O.co Coliseum coming into this weekend’s four-game series against the New York Yankees, no one would mistake the 2015 Oakland Athletics for a playoff contender. In fact, the A’s entered this series against the Bronx Bombers 13.5 games out of first place in the American League West division.
But after taking three of four from the Yanks to win their first home series of the season, the Athletics have to wonder if they’re capable of making a run over the next four months. Oakland’s record is still just 20-33, but the team is playing better ball and has finally put a very ugly stretch of baseball (6-22 from April 23 to May 22, exactly one month) behind them. Perhaps the A’s can make a decent showing this season after all.
(It’s too bad Oakland doesn’t play in the AL East, as it’s now 5-3 against the top teams—New York and Tampa Bay—in that division.)
Today’s 3-0 win over the Yankees in front of the hometown fans was a sweet victory, especially since the team had to return closer Sean Doolittle to the disabled list. All the A’s problems since they peaked last August have stemmed from Doolittle not being his normal self, and now there’s a real possibility Oakland may not have him at all this year.
However, if the A’s can effectively solidify the bullpen, the starting pitching will keep them in the hunt—and Stephen Vogt, a legitimate MVP candidate in the AL this year. Oakland’s starting pitchers are 5-2 with a 1.23 ERA over the last nine games, for example, and Vogt is hitting .322 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI after today’s game where he drove in all three runs for the A’s with a homer and a sacrifice fly. Jesse Chavez delivered another stellar performance—eight scoreless innings that lowered his ERA to 2.11 on the year—to hold New York in check.
Oakland has won six of its last nine, and there is still a huge mountain to climb just to get this ball club back to .500 on the year. If the A’s can do that by the middle of July—the All-Star Game is on July 14—perhaps they can be taken seriously again. With 53 games down and 38 to go until the break, Oakland realistically needs to post a 26-12 record to get back to middling status by then: not impossible, but very difficult and something this team hasn’t shown it’s really capable of yet.
The A’s must now continue to sustain their success on the road, where they have been a little bit better (11-16) but still not very good. Last weekend’s split in Tampa Bay was a start, so as Oakland heads to Detroit and Boston—two teams that each won two of three against the A’s at the O.co recently—the club really needs to show the turnaround is real.
Today’s game was the eighth time this season Oakland has shut out an opponent, and the team has outscored the opposition by one run this season—despite the terrible record. All those blown games earlier in the season can’t be bothered with now; the A’s must simply look towards the next game and win it … again and again and again.
All the way until the first week of October.