It really wasn’t that long ago that the wheels had completely fallen off for the Oakland Athletics. After starting a tough road trip by taking two out of three in the Bronx versus the New York Yankees, things turned ugly for the A’s when they were swept in a four game series by the Cleveland Indians, and lost two out of three in Seattle against the Mariners.
Upon returning home the A’s took the first of three from the Texas Rangers, but lost the final two games of the series for their third straight series defeat. Things were looking bleak, and the Athletics had slumped to 20-22 after bolting out to a 12-4 start. Then things changed.
The Kansas City Royals were coming to town, and they were bringing a couple of A’s killers with them. James Shields and Ervin Santana have had a lot of success against the Athletics over the years, but the A’s were able to take them down en route to a sweep of the Royals during the weekend series at O.co. Maybe something clicked with them, or maybe it was the power of the swine as Bacon Friday had been celebrated on May 17th. The Athletics had gotten themselves back over the .500 mark and were about to set forth on a run that would ultimately see them reaching new heights for 2013.
Trips to Arlington usually come with devastating losses and mountains of frustration for the Athletics. Perhaps the demons of Arlington were exorcised last season as the A’s ran down the Rangers to take the AL West title. Perhaps the Athletics are now just more experienced in dealing with tough environments. Either way, they took the series, beating Yu Darvish in the process. Another sweep of the Houston Astros would follow.
The A’s would return to the Bay Area to take on the cross bay rival San Francisco Giants in aa 4 game home and home series. The A’s would outclass the Giants by taking 3 of the 4 games. Then came the White Sox, a talented but mightily underachieving team that ranks near the bottom of just about every offensive category in the AL. The A’s swept them right out of Oakland, allowing a grand total of 3 runs in the process.
Now the Athletics sit at 34-24, a season high 10 games over .500, and are just 2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. The two teams have now separated themselves from the rest of the division, with 8.5 games now separating the A’s in second place and the third place Los Angeles Angels.
What is behind this turnaround? Pitching, pitching, pitching. What was thought to be the strength of this team coming into the season had been something of a disappointment in the early going, even when they were winning. Then the offense sputtered, causing the losses to build. Now the pitching staff has regained its proper form, and the wins are piling up.
The renaissance of Jarrod Parker, the development of Dan Straily, and the ageless wonder that is Bartolo Colon have been huge for the Athletics. Getting healthy as well has played a big role in the turnaround. The lineups lacking Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, and even the struggling Josh Reddick were not indicative of a playoff contender, now that they are all back in the fold the team can pick up where it left off in April.
The contributions of Josh Donaldson cannot be understated either, he’s playing at an All Star level. The hot corner is as solidified as it has been since the prime years of Eric Chavez.
The first half of the month of June is much easier than the latter half when a four game series in Arlington and visits to Oakland from the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds await. The A’s will have to continue playing high level baseball versus the lesser opponents they will see early in the month in order to weather the storm near the end of the month.
I said before that the A’s had set themselves up for success early on, and it’s a good thing they did because it gave them a cushion to deal with the tough times that would lie ahead. The A’s are known for being a second half team, so if they can maintain a good record through the first half then the team could really take off come summertime. Things are looking way up for the green and gold, and we could be in for one heck of a summer, and hopefully an even better fall.