Athletics

A's cement status among MLB's best in Battle of Bay sweep

Athletics

After the fourth weekend of the 2020 MLB season, the A’s have baseball’s best record.

They sit directly ahead of three iconic heavyweight franchises: the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs in MLB’s overall standings. 

The A’s emergence in August comes with some noteworthy trends we’ll pass along here.

Oakland’s most recent three wins completed a series sweep in San Francisco. Much as the Giants looked fragile and inadequate over the weekend, two comebacks and the blowout on Sunday might count for more than just victories. They could be momentum builders.

“All three of these games mean nothing but trouble for the next team [Arizona] that they’re going to be facing,” said NBC Sports California analyst Dave Stewart. “The offense is playing the way we know they’re capable of playing. All pieces are starting to work.”

Stewart called Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas the “No. 1 and 2 guys” in Oakland’s rotation right now, and coincidentally that’s who will get the starts tonight and tomorrow in Arizona.

Slugger Matt Olson broke an interesting and important streak yesterday.

All seven of his prior hits across the last ten games were home runs. It’s actually the second time that has happened in his career. In the finale at Oracle Park, Olson singled three times, and scored every time he was on base. That's definitely a more sustainable method of run production.

“We love Steph [Curry] knocking down threes… but we also love him to get a layup here and there,” said NBC Sports California analyst Dontrelle Willis. “That’s exactly what Olson did today. Hitting to all fields, showing he could bunt, taking what the defense gives him. I was truly impressed with that, going to get his batting average and confidence up.”

 

A’s pitcher James Kaprelian made his long-awaited MLB debut yesterday.

The California native is a familiar face to teammates, after coming to Oakland in the Sonny Gray trade of July 2017. Elbow and shoulder injuries have kept him in rehab mode almost entirely since then. And while Kaprelian gave up a homer to Brandon Crawford as his very first batter, he settled in after that allowing no more hits across two innings.

“That let the wind out of his sails, and he was able to relax the rest of the way,” Stewart said on Postgame Live. “Next inning was smooth, his outing was a smooth outing. For your first game on the big league mound, in this season, he had a pretty good outing.”

Equally interesting to who the A’s have beat in 2020, is analyzing their losses. 

[RELATED: Canha continues to own Giants as A's sweep Battle of the Bay]

Oakland actually concluded July with a losing record of 3-4. That questionable start seems like a lifetime ago. Ever since, the A's have put together a nine-game and current four-game win streak, with only two dropped games (back-to-back) in Anaheim. Taking losses is inevitable, but minimizing the damage over short stretches in this abbreviated season carries more importance than ever. 

“When you’re winning games and playing good, just have to get greedy and win many as you can,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. “You don’t go through winning streaks the entire season.”

The A’s have completed series sweeps against Texas, Houston, and now San Francisco. But until this past weekend, Oakland had yet to really hit on all cylinders.

“For a while, it was just doing enough,” Melvin said. “Certain games, winning close games. Seemed like the pitching was ruling the day, and now it seems that the bats have woken up too.”

The AL West is beginning to shape up.

Not just in terms of wins, losses, and cushions. But a distinct trend in run differential is becoming clear. Only Oakland (+34) and Houston (+18) carry positive totals in the division. This is a traditional indication which would suggest there’s two healthy teams, and everyone else (Texas, Los Angeles, and Seattle). It could project a longer-term reality of who actually will contend for the top spot.

Whoever wins the AL West in 2020 gets to host an entire three-game, first-round series at their ballpark. That alone should give Oakland the added incentive to maintain what they currently hold.

 

“They’re the best team in the division,” Willis said Sunday on Postgame Live. “Everyone has the Astros winning the division, but I believe in these guys.”