The Oakland Athletics have played their way into contention by beating up on teams that are far from it.
Oakland enters the All-Star break having won 21 of its last 27, and the A’s are only three games behind the second wild card. At 55-42, manager Bob Melvin’s Athletics would have the second-best record in the National League if they were in it. Instead, they play in the AL West, where their impressive mark still leaves them eight games behind division-leading Houston.
Nevertheless, there have been some encouraging signs for an Oakland team that hasn’t finished above .500 since 2014. The A’s are 31-21 on the road and during one stretch homered in 27 straight games away from home. Oakland has seven players with at least 10 homers, led by Khris Davis with 21 and Matt Olson with 19.
On the mound, Sean Manaea has rebounded from a poor May, and Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino have been excellent out of the bullpen.
The question for the A’s is whether they can win enough games against the other playoff contenders in the American League head to head. The reason Oakland is in this position is because it has taken great advantage of an AL that includes a handful of extremely beatable teams at the bottom. The A’s are 21-4 against the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Blue Jays and Tigers. They’re also 4-0 in interleague games against San Diego.
Against the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Indians and Mariners, it’s been a different story. Oakland is just 16-21 in those games.
But the A’s took two of three at Cleveland earlier this month, then followed that by winning three of four at Houston. Even when playing close to home, their success in visiting ballparks continued when they took two of three at San Francisco.
Elsewhere around the majors:
VIEW FROM THE TOP
It hasn’t been a breeze this season for the Chicago Cubs, who went to the last three NL Championship Series and won it all in 2016. Kris Bryant only recently came back from a shoulder injury, and Anthony Rizzo hasn’t been hitting that well. Plus, Chicago has had to contend with a spirited challenge from Milwaukee in the NL Central.
But the Cubs enter the break with the NL’s best record, and the Brewers have lost six in a row. Then there’s the rival Cardinals, who are 7 ½ games behind Chicago and fired manager Mike Matheny over the weekend .
It’s a little early to start planning for a third straight Cubs-Dodgers NLCS, but Los Angeles is on a nice run of its own, having gone 27-13 since the start of June.
Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton left marks in the wall in center field after scaling it to make an acrobatic catch on a drive by Matt Carpenter of St. Louis on Friday night. Hamilton went up the wall somewhat awkwardly and was off balance when he caught the ball, falling back onto the warning track. But he held on for the out. It was that kind of week for the Cardinals.
LINE OF THE WEEK
This one came in a losing cause: Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer struck out 12 in eight scoreless innings, allowing only three hits Tuesday night. Then the Indians allowed seven runs in the ninth and lost 7-4 to Cincinnati.
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