Posts tagged Oakland Athletics
The Hunt for October

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in the MLB.  A couple of teams have kicked their run into high gear, some are stuck in neutral, and others are hustling backwards.  Let’s start with one of the more memorable moments of the MLB season which took place on the North Side of Chicago.

Cubs leading a strong NL Central race
(CHC lead by four games)

The “David Bote Game” may be one that we look back on as a defining moment for the Cubs as well as a deathblow for the Nationals. Bote’s game-winning grand slam a few weeks ago was a good feeling, but the Cubs still have some work to do as the Cardinals (2.5 games back) have gone from .500 and selling off assets to a statement sweep of the Dodgers in a month, and the Brewers (three games back) hang around in the division as well.

The Cubs officially shut Yu Darvish down for the remainder of the season, but they added playoff nemesis Daniel Murphy for the stretch run. The Cardinals also added firepower to their lineup by way of first baseman Matt Adams.

Code Red in DC as the Braves separate themselves from the Phillies
(ATL leads NL East by 3 games)

The good news for the Nationals is they've won the first two games in their series with the Phillies, and they'll see Philadelphia and Atlanta for the final time in two weeks. The bad news is that they've already started their fire sale, sending both Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams to contenders, and pulling Bryce Harper back off waivers once the Dodgers claimed him. "Harper Watch" is officially underway.

Speaking of the Phillies, the question of their legitimacy away from Philly remains as they went 2-4 in Arizona and San Diego, and dropped their first two games in Washington. Philadelphia has to consistently beat the teams they’re supposed to beat as well as find success on the road.

The Braves had their own share of drama as young star Ronald Acuna Jr. was plunked by a Jose Urena fastball last week.  Acuna was RED HOT at the plate, homering eight times in eight games leading up to the incident.  Fortunately, Acuna did not suffer a significant injury. It will be interesting to see how things go this weekend when the Braves travel to play Urena’s Marlins.

Anyone’s Game in the NL West (ARI leads by 1.5 games)

While Arizona has been near the top of the division standings all season, the Rockies are the division’s hottest team. Colorado has won nine of its last eleven games, and welcome Matt Holliday into the lineup for the stretch run. The second half of their six-game homestand will be important as the Cardinals are playing great baseball as well.

Meanwhile, things haven’t gone as planned in Los Angeles. The Dodgers' slide continues as they were swept by St. Louis at home this week. Kenley Jansen's second appearance since coming off the disabled list was brutal as he surrendered the two-run homer that ended the game. LA is 4.5 games out of first, 3.5. games back of the second wild card.

RK-Oakland: A’s are AL West Contenders Out of Nowhere (HOU leads by 1 game)

In a way that would make WWE Superstar Randy Orton proud, the Oakland A’s have surprisingly found their way into the AL West race. Oakland’s success has been puzzling to just about everyone outside of the Bay Area being that they’ve entered the season in the bottom three of team payroll. Lately they’ve won their share of close games with the help of their retooled bullpen.  If they can keep this up, we might see the Oakland Coliseum being used for baseball past September.

Houston is trying to find their stride after a rough stretch which they lost three of their last ten. They took two of three in Seattle to push the Mariners down and stay atop the AL West. They'll host the A's in their final series of the regular season next week in Houston; one of the most crucial series left this year.

Seattle isn’t necessarily fading in the AL West; their play has been overshadowed by the two teams above them. So far, every time it looks like that playoff drought might live to see another year, the Mariners show that they still have life. Robinson Cano’s return to the team has been a plus in a variety of ways, although he’s ineligible for postseason play.  However, uncertainty surrounding Felix Hernández’s role on the pitching staff raises eyebrows.  “Will he go to bullpen?”, “Will he ever return to the starting rotation”, “Does he even have anything left in the tank?” are all questions the Mariners need to solve as soon as possible.

Elsewhere, the Boston Red Sox continue to play great baseball.  Since sweeping the Yankees they've gone 9-4, boosting them to a league-best 88 wins. They seem poised for a deep postseason run. Oh, and that JD Martinez guy?  He’s having an MVP-worthy season and very well could make the 50-home run mark this season.

Not to be outdone by Boston, the Indians have quietly put together a solid run of their own winning eight of their last ten. The Indians are the only division leader with a double-digit lead as they’re up twelve and a half games over second place Minnesota.  Looking at the state of the other four teams in the division, Cleveland very well could have the AL Central locked up by the third week of September.

Inside the 2018 MLB Playoff Race

It’s August and the games are starting to matter in the Major Leagues. One bad stretch of games in August could leave you on the outside looking in come playoff time. Let’s look at the close divisional and wild card races still going on.

Rex Sox rising, Yankees folding in AL East

For a team that boasts one of the deepest lineups 1-through-9 in the league, the loss of Aaron Judge (wrist injury) has really hurt the Bronx Bombers.  Entering Monday, the Yankees have lost five straight, including a four-game sweep to the rival Red Sox, who now hold a 9 and a half-game lead in the AL East.

Keep in mind that the Red Sox did all of this without the help of ace Chris Sale, who is expected to return from shoulder inflammation this weekend in Baltimore.

 

Second half magic puts Oakland in the thick of the Wild Card hunt

The Oakland Athletics keep winning, I don’t know how… but they just keep winning. The A's took off in June and July to push them right in the middle of the American League Wild Card hunt.

If you look at their roster, your kneejerk reaction is probably “Who are these guys???”. Their rotation consisting of guys who have bounced all around the league (I’m talking about you, Edwin Jackson), their starting lineup can flat out MASH, like Khris Davis (the major league leader in home runs since 2016) and the two Matts (Chapman and Olson). If the A’s find themselves in the Wild Card game, they will be the reason why.

Are the Phillies for real?

There’s a lot of winning going on in Philadelphia this year (shoutout to Meek) and surprisingly the Phillies have kept the trend going. They’ve won five straight and have a game and a half lead over the Atlanta Braves.

Most of their damage has been done at home, with a NL-best 37 wins at Citizens Bank Park. If they want to hold off the Braves and Nationals (there’s still hope for Bryce Harper and Washington), they’ll have to improve on that 25-30 record away from Philly.

The Cubs are finally playing to their potential

The Chicago Cubs hold the best record in the National League, despite missing key members for long periods of time (Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow). They're only a game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central coming into Monday, but even without those stars they're playing to everyone's expectations.

The Cubs were relatively quiet at the trade deadline, acquiring Cole Hamels and a few relievers to add the pen. The Brewers have been a nice story, but it’s going to be a tough task matching wins late in the season with a team as good as the Cubs. Milwaukee may eventually have to turn its focus on maintaining its lead in the wild card race.

How the (NL) West is won

On paper, the Dodgers are the clear favorite to win the NL West for a sixth straight year, but it’s still wide open out west. They're tied atop the division with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been solid behind MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. The Colorado Rockies have also managed to hang around behind their star Nolan Arenado. Even the Giants sit five games back in the West.

There can only be one division winner, but the added incentive for these teams is to avoid that one game playoff. This race will certainly come down to the last week of the regular season.

Key series to watch

Philadelphia Phillies (62-48) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (62-50)
August 6th-8th

The margin for error for both teams is extremely slim. Can the Phillies get some wins on the road?

Los Angeles Dodgers (61-51) @ Colorado Rockies (58-52)
August 9th-12th

The Dodgers have a chance to distance themselves from the Rockies in a packed NL West.

Milwaukee Brewers (65-49) @ Atlanta Braves (59-48)
August 10th-12th

A potential preview of the NL wild-card game.

Let's Make a Deal: MLB Trade Deadline
Zach Britton Source:   Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun

Zach Britton Source: Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun

With another All-Star break in the books, it’s time to direct our attention toward the second half of the regular season.  The trade deadline is approaching, and as playoff races begin to heat up, teams will have to decide if they will be “buyers” or “sellers” Here are a few notable moves that could impact the second half.

Trade Deadline Moves... So Far

The first domino fell when Manny Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers over the break this past week. This deal greatly impacts the outlook of the National League pennant race as the Dodgers are now a popular favorite in the NL. One of five prospects going the other way to Baltimore is Yusniel Diaz. The 21-year-old Cuban outfielder put on a show in the Futures Game in D.C. over the break.

Another big name was moved a few days later when Padres closer Brad Hand was dealt to Cleveland. Hand will join a talented but underachieving Indians bullpen for the stretch run. In return, the Padres landed young, switch-hitting catcher Francisco Mejia. They may not be good now but as they continue to stockpile talent, the Padres will be a team to watch in the future.

The third noteworthy trade to occur since the break involved the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics. The Mets dealt reliever Jeurys Familia to Oakland for two minor leaguers. The Mets are waving the white flag on a disappointing season, while Oakland feels that they can catch the Seattle Mariners for the second wild-card spot. Adding Familia to bolster their bullpen is a step in the right direction for a playoff run.

Players That Could Be on The Move

Source: SI.com

Source: SI.com

While some big names have changed addresses, there are a few more quality players that could be dealt. The teams that missed out on Manny Machado (the Indians, Brewers, and Phillies) still have a need that has to be filled for the last few months. Those teams, according to Buster Olney of ESPN, are interested in Mets veteran middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. While Cabrera may be 32, he would be a welcome addition to any lineup; he's currently hitting .280 BA with 17 homers and 53 RBI.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America)

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America)

Another player whose trade value has been linked to Machado is Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnik, the Red Sox and Braves have shown interest in the 29-year-old. While Moustakas hasn’t always been the most consistent player, he would be a good fit in further solidifying either lineup. Like Cabrera, look for a deal involving Moustakas to be more on the side of a rental rather than something long-term.

Zach Britton has been a solid reliever for arguably the worst team in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles. With Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia already traded, Britton is now viewed as the best relief pitching option on the trade market. Britton has been “lights out” as of late, he has not given up a run in his last eight appearances.

Playoff contenders such as the Astros, Braves, Dodgers and Cubs (perhaps more) are very interested in Britton. With such a valuable trade chip in their pocket, the Orioles again are looking to land the best offer possible as they did with Machado. It will be interesting to see who lands where over the next week as well as when teams can make trades via waivers following the trade deadline.