Jul 3, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Craig Gentry (3) runs home against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Athletics and Angels: Keys to the Series

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It would be easy to say that the Athletics need to score more runs, play great defense and get some solid outings from their struggling starters. For the Athletics to win 2 of 3, or even sweep the series, there are a couple of keys the A’s will need to accomplish in order to trim the Angels’ division lead.

The first key for the Athletics is that they need to score early in each game. Scoring early against Angel pitching does two things: first, it gives the A’s starters some breathing room. Some believe that the starters have been pressing, trying to be too fine with their pitches, so not to allow any runs because they can’t rely on their struggling offense.

With the A’s offense scoring a couple of runs early, this pressure would subside and the starters can go out and dominate.

The other aspect that comes in to play with scoring early, is that the offense won’t have to score runs against a much improved Angel bullpen. Their rotation, especially with Garrett Richards out, is their weak spot. Jumping on the opposing starter will go a long way to securing a victory for the green and gold.

With Huston Street (1.29), Jason Grilli (2.08), Joe Smith (2.05) and Kevin Jepsen (2.18) coming out of the ‘pen, the Angels have the ability to shorten a game dramatically. While the A’s bullpen has that same ability, the Angel offense is more fearsome at the moment.

The other key to the series will be Craig Gentry, who was activated from the D.L. on Friday. The addition of Gentry to the lineup adds a bat that is hitting .407 with a .448 OBP and has 4 steals against LAA this season. Pairing Gentry with Coco Crisp at the top of the lineup gives the A’s lineup a tool they haven’t had during their struggles: speed.

Against Friday’s starter, Hector Santiago, Gentry is just 2 of 10 lifetime with a .333 OBP. Saturday’s starter, C.J. Wilson Gentry is slightly better with a .286/.375. This all culminates with Sunday’s starter, Jered Weaver who Gentry is hitting .375 against in his career.

Even if Gentry isn’t producing hits, he has the ability to move runners up via the sacrifice, or if the offense is stagnant, he can bunt for a hit himself.

Of course it would be more fun if the Athletics just bludgeon the Angels this weekend, but in reality it should be a hard-fought, close series. If the Athletics hope to come out on top, the return of Craig Gentry could play a pivotal role.

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