August 25, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) and Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris (36) congratulate each other after they beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Oakland Athletics defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

A's Continue to Buck the Trend

Typically at this point in the regular season most A’s fans have moved on from baseball as their primary sports interest because the A’s are woefully out of any and all pennant races.  For many A’s fans that means preparing for football season and focusing on the roommates of the A’s at the Coliseum, the Oakland Raiders.  Others (like me) are paying attention to the 49ers on the other side of the bay.  But this season is different, because the Oakland A’s are right in the thick of the pennant race and have everything to play for over the last 5 weeks of the season.

The A’s have made a living in 2012 of defying the odds and proving every expert on the planet wrong.  Nobody can truly say they expected the A’s to improve dramatically over last year’s team after the mini fire sale that took place during the offseason.  It was reasonable to expect they might be a little less hapless than most predicted, but this was out of the question.  Over the month of August a little dose of reality was dealt to the A’s that many expected to be the beginning of the end of the A’s unexpected rise to contention.  But they are proving themselves to be strong enough to withstand such adversity.

The last time the A’s saw the Tampa Bay Rays was at the turn of the month where the A’s lost 2 out of 3 to the Rays in Oakland.  They had been utterly dominated by James Shields en route to their 1st of 2 complete game shutouts against them that would take place in a week (The other by Jered Weaver of the Angels).  The Rays were on the rise, and seemed to demonstrate to the A’s that they were truly in another class.  So when the A’s paid a visit to St. Petersburg to play the Rays at Tropicana Field this weekend, the prevailing thought had to be that the Rays would certainly take this series as well.  But the A’s had other ideas.

After the first game that saw Alex Cobb toss his own complete game shutout, it looked indeed like the A’s were in store for more of the same.  But as they have all season, the A’s defied the odds and took this series from the Rays.  Jarrod Parker and Brandon McCarthy did their jobs to shut down the Rays offense and the A’s bullpen stood strong to keep any late comebacks at bay.  The A’s offense didn’t tear apart the Rays pitching staff, but they were able to capitalize on key mistakes and put enough of a crooked number on the scoreboard to succeed.  Now the A’s sit just 1/2 game behind the Rays who hold the number 1 wild card spot, and should the two teams find themselves playing in the wild card game with the same record, that game will be played in Oakland after the A’s took the season series.

At this point taking little advantages like that are going to be key for sustaining success throughout the remainder of the season.  The more advantages they can put in their back pocket, the better position they’ll be in to make some noise in the month of October.  Right now they’re 69-57, 12 games over .500 for the first time since 2006.  If they play .500 ball for the rest of the season they’ll finish with 87 wins.  Most anyone who says they predicted that to happen is either lucky, a super genius, or lying.

The A’s have a pretty difficult month of September coming around the corner, but this coming week after tomorrow’s unusual Sunday off day features 7 games against the Cleveland Indians who they swept last weekend, and the Boston Red Sox who just gutted themselves and saved a quarter of a billion dollars in the process.  These are two series the A’s absolutely should take control of.  It’s hard to believe I’m saying it, but the Boston Red Sox are a team that is way down in the dumps and should be beaten by the A’s.  If they don’t take atleast 5 of the 7 games I would classify the week as unsuccessful.

The competition isn’t going away anytime soon, and just winning series here and there will not cut it.  The A’s must steamroll teams if they want to prove to everyone they belong in this conversation.  I believe they do, and I believe they will.


Tags: Oakland Athletics Pennant Race

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