For fans freaking out about a 2-game deficit before the calendar flips to September, let me offer some perspective. On this date last year, the Athletics trailed the Texas Rangers by 3 games. The A’s went on to win the division by 5.5 by season’s end. The A’s have experience coming down the stretch, winning games and divisions. The Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.
While the divisional race is tight, the A’s haven’t been playing great baseball either. The Angels have yet to run away and hide, even with the A’s looking at their first losing month since May of 2012. In fact, I wrote about how the Angels pushing the Athletics this season could actually be good for Oakland moving into October.
Another piece of good fortune comes in the form of the schedule for the two teams. Following a day off for the Angels on Monday, they play every day through September 24th. The last team they face during that brutal stretch? Your Oakland A’s. The team they face after that day off? The Seattle Mariners, who will be fighting for a playoff berth of their own.
With the loss of Garrett Richards, the Angel rotation is now down its ace. While it hasn’t slowed them down yet, they are relying on their starters to pitch deep into games, and their bullpen to close them out. Essentially, that’s how baseball works. Yet, if C.J. Wilson decides to take another nose-dive in September, and this TBA pitcher turns out to be terrible, that puts an extra workload on their bullpen.
Add in that the Angel ‘pen doesn’t have a lefty, and that is an added bonus, not just against the Athletics, but for every team the Angels face. A tired bullpen that also has an unfavorable matchup? That’s a recipe for disaster.
The Athletics are struggling in August, there is no denying that. Yet, with rosters expanding on Monday, the Athletics will get some reinforcements. They’ll have Nate Freiman and Drew Pomeranz back, that much is certain. There is also a good chance that Jed Lowrie will return to the lineup soon as well.
The key for the Athletics may be the addition of Billy Burns. The speedster acquired for Jerry Blevins will be a stolen base threat, and a complimentary piece to Craig Gentry manning the bases. Pitchers love thinking about speed on the base paths in high-leverage situations.
Brandon Moss hasn’t been his fearsome self as of late, hitting .185 with no homers and just 4 RBI in August. In the playoffs, the entire team tends to forget how to hit. This is why the Athletics acquired Burns and Gentry in the offseason. All the Athletics need is someone to get on base (They rank 5th in MLB and 2nd in AL with a .325 OBP) and let the speed of Gentry and Burns take care of the rest.
September will be a viewing party for what the Athletics’ offense will become when the postseason arrives. While the offense may not score as much, the team will be finding new ways to win the close games that have eluded them of late.
Tags: Oakland Athletics