The Oakland Athletics survived two straight late-inning meltdowns by their bullpen to walk off their home series win against the San Francisco Giants leading off the second half of the season. They added another arm to the bullpen, Jeurys Familia, who promptly went two scoreless innings in his A’s debut on Sunday for a win. At 58-43, the A’s are two and a half games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card playoff berth.
If you told me I was going to write that last sentence at any point about the A’s this season, I would have laughed you off. At best, the A’s looked like a flawed team gathering young players and building to success the Oakland way, with General Manager Billy Beane slowly plucking enough diamonds from the rough to create a winner next year or the year after.
But the 2018 A’s had different plans. They’re similar to the surprising Mariners in how they’ve won close games without the eye-popping dominance of other American League contenders. They don’t score a ton of runs but they don’t give them up either, and in spite of ranking no higher than fourth in the American League in most major offensive and pitching categories, their run differential is +34.
The A’s rotation has been anchored by Trevor Cahill and Sean Manaea, a long-promising left-hander who is now blossoming. Their bullpen has shortened games with Blake Treinen closing, and now with Familia, they’ll have a backend that can shut opponents down beyond the seventh inning.
I would expect Beane to add a couple more players to the mix over this week to try and run down the Mariners for a Wild Card spot. They have 10 more games against Seattle this season, seven at home (which might be a disadvantage: Oakland is 31-21 on the road, 26-22 at the Coliseum).
Look out, American League West, the A’s are coming. Will they have enough to climb the ladder?
Rest of the West
The Mariners won their home series against the hapless White Sox to ace with Oakland. Concerns about the offense after a two-hit effort against the struggling Dyan Covey have been quelled, at least for now, with an 8-2 win over Chicago on Sunday. First baseman Ryon Healy belted a pair of three-run home runs to lead Seattle. The Mariners host the Giants next on their homestand as they try to fend off Oakland.
The question isn’t will Cole Hamels be traded, but when for the Texas Rangers. He made an awkward (and forgettable) start on Monday against Oakland, which could be his last in a Rangers uniform. Several teams are interested in the starter. The only thing that could make things more interesting is Hamels’ partial no-trade clause, but if he’s dealt to a contender, I doubt he’d balk at it.
We still don’t know if the LA Angels will be sellers at the deadline or not. They shellacked the Houston Astros in their series finale on Sunday to reach .500. Shohei Ohtani will reportedly take the mound at some point again this year for LA, but it might be too little too late for 2018.
The Astros, despite their meltdown against the Angels on Sunday, won their opening series to keep pace with Oakland and Seattle. They appear to be close to acquiring former All-Star closer Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles. If they can add a couple more arms to the bullpen, they might not lose another game this year.