By Matt Furtado / KHTK Sports 1140
What started off as a 162 game marathon among four teams pushing to win the American League West Division has now turned into a 36 game sprint between the Oakland Athletics and the division leading Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
For the majority of the season, the Athletics looked like the better team. In fact, they looked like the best team in baseball. On June 21, the Green and Gold were six games ahead of the Halos. They slowly watched that lead drop, holding just a game and half lead at the All-Star break.
Since the break, the Angels continued to gain ground on the A’s and on Monday they surpassed the Athletics to take hold of the division lead for the first time all season.
With an 18-13 record after the All-Star break, the Angels currently have a game and a half lead on the Athletics, who have posted a record of 15-16 during the same time frame.
The two teams play each other 10 more times throughout the remaining 36 games of the schedule, including the three game set which starts tomorrow in Oakland. These 10 games will ultimately hold a big say in who finishes the season on top.
Between the two teams, the Athletics have the easier remaining schedule, but not by much. Not only does Oakland host six of the 10 remaining games between the two clubs, but the A’s also have 20 games against teams that having a winning percentage of .500 or below, as opposed to Anaheim’s 18 games.
Although Anaheim holds the lead right now, there might be some concern with the stability of the Angels’ starting rotation after the possible season-ending injury to ace Garrett Richards.
The Athletics have seen run production decrease since trading away Yoenis Cespedes; finding a groove without the Cuban slugger will be key for the A’s to end on top of the division.
With the A’s skipping Jason Hammel’s scheduled start on Friday, the Athletics will have Cy Young candidates Sonny Gray, Jon Lester and Scott Kazmir pitching in this weekend’s series.
The A’s offensive struggles will be their downfall though. Look for the Athletics to take two out of three games in the series which would close the gap by one game.
It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be exciting and It’s going to be fun.
For complete coverage of this weekend’s series for first place in the division, tune into KHTK Sports 1140.