Athletics

Five ways A's have had eerily similar season to 2018 playoff campaign

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Five ways A's have had eerily similar season to 2018 playoff campaign

As the late, great Yogi Berra once said, it's déjà vu all over again.

Through 94 games, the A's 2019 season has followed a very familiar pattern, almost perfectly mirroring last year. Both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns saw Oakland get off to a slow start, only to catch fire just prior to the All-Star break.

Of course, the A's still have plenty of work to do if they want to match last year's 97-win total, but to this point, there are a handful of stunning similarities between the two seasons.

Same exact record 28 different times

This year's A's squad has already had the same exact record as last year's team on 28 different occasions. From 1-2 to 31-31 to the club's current mark of 53-41, this season has followed last year to a T.

There have also been numerous occasions where the 2018 and 2019 records have been just a game or two apart. It's really quite eerie examining the two schedules side by side.

Within three games of last year's record the entire season

Perhaps even more amazing than matching last year's record 28 times already is the fact that Oakland has never been more than three games behind or ahead of last season's pace. Even when last year's A's fell to 5-10, this season's team was only two games better at 7-8. And when this year's A's plummeted to 19-25, they were only three games behind last season's 22-22 mark through 44 games.

Now 94 games into the season, the two records have never separated more than that margin.

Nearly identical season-lows

Last year, the A's got off to a sluggish 5-10 start. That ended up being the most games they would fall below .500 all season. This year's low mark was just slightly worse at six games under .500.

Oakland stumbled to a 15-21 start and then hit that number again at 19-25. Since then, the A's are 34-16.

Matching season-highs

On July 12 of last year, the A's beat the Astros to improve to 53-41, getting to 12 games over .500 for the first time all season.

A year later, Oakland completed a three-game sweep of the White Sox to push their record to 53-41, and it once again was the first time they have been 12 games over .500 this season.

[RELATED: Giants, A's move up in MLB power rankings as trade deadline nears]

Mid-June turnarounds

On June 15, 2018, the A's lost to the Angels and fell to 34-36. From there, they would win 19 of their next 24 games to improve to 53-41. This season on June 16, Oakland lost to the Mariners and dropped to 36-36. They responded by winning 17 of their next 22 games to again improve to 53-41.

Will this season's script continue to follow last year's right into the postseason? Stay tuned.

How A's Sheldon Neuse made smooth transition from third base to second

How A's Sheldon Neuse made smooth transition from third base to second

OAKLAND -- For just about his entire life, Sheldon Neuse has played on the left side of the infield.

Neuse played shortstop and third base in college at the University of Oklahoma before moving to the hot corner full-time as a professional. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have much of a path to the majors at third base, with some guy named Matt Chapman already occupying the position.

So after spending the entire Triple-A season at third base, Neuse moved over to second just last month. Since earning a major league call-up on August 29, he has played the position flawlessly, recording a perfect fielding percentage through 91 innings.

"I'm feeling better every day," Neuse told NBC Sports California. "I played there for about a week and a half before coming up (to the majors), but last spring training and this spring training, I've done a bunch of work there. Throughout this year, even though I played third a lot in Vegas, I still moved over and took my reps at other positions. Every day, I'm out there taking groundballs now to just try to get better. Right now I feel good, but there's always something to improve on."

Neuse, 24, says his biggest challenge has been mastering the footwork on the right side of the infield, particularly when turning a double play.

"Everything's backward from the left side of the infield," he said. "Other than that, I think everything else is coming together. I'm getting more and more comfortable every day with the flips and things like that."

Neuse made a trio of outstanding defensive plays in the A's 12-3 win over the Rangers on Saturday night. In the fourth inning, he ranged up the middle to backhand a 107-mph scorcher off the bat of Nick Solak, showing off his strong arm with an accurate throw to first.

Then in the sixth, he fielded another 107-mph grounder to retire Willie Calhoun, followed by a 103-mph one-hopper off the bat of Delino DeShields. He also helped turn a 6-4-3 double play in the first.

"Extremely (impressive)," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "For a guy who's been, not only on the other side of the diamond, but mostly third base, it's a completely different look. Then you switch to second base for a short period of time and then you're called to the big leagues and asked to play that position. I don't know that there could be a smoother transition. ... He's worked really hard with these guys and it looks like it's a natural position for him."

Neuse's bat has started to heat up recently as well. On Saturday, he went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI, raising his average to .273.

[RELATED: McGwire reflects on A's Hall of Fame induction]

"Every game, I feel more comfortable -- getting in there and getting at-bats and just trying to make the most of my opportunities," Neuse said. "This is awesome. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you get. I think that just kind of comes with it. But I'm enjoying every moment of it."

The A's are certainly enjoying Neuse's play too.
 

Slugger Mark McGwire 'ecstatic' to be inducted into A's Hall of Fame

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Slugger Mark McGwire 'ecstatic' to be inducted into A's Hall of Fame

OAKLAND -- The A's officially inducted their second Hall of Fame class Saturday night in a pre-game ceremony on the Coliseum field.

It was a star-studded class, featuring Mark McGwire, Tony La Russa, Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, and Walter A. Haas Jr. For McGwire, it represented a long-awaited homecoming in Oakland, as he had to miss the 30th anniversary reunion of the 1989 World Series championship team earlier this year.

"I couldn't wait to tell my family," McGwire said of the honor. "Other than my son Matt, my family now wasn't here when this all existed. So this is the first time they get to see Oakland and Oakland rock."

McGwire did get to come to the Coliseum last season as a member of the San Diego Padres coaching staff, but this was different. When he found out he had earned the team's Hall of Fame honor, he was deeply moved.

"I was like, 'Wow, that's really cool,'" McGwire said. "It just catches you off guard. I saw what happened last year and I was like, 'Oh they're starting to do something like that.' I didn't know if I'd get a call this year or whenever, but I was ecstatic."

McGwire still cherishes the memories of his time in Oakland, where he spent 12 seasons and made nine All-Star Games.

"We had some great runs here," McGwire said. "I played with many Hall of Fame players, stud athletes, and the third-winningest (manager) in MLB history (La Russa). I'm blessed. I'm truly blessed."

Of course, McGwire's career has been somewhat tainted by his use of performance-enhancing drugs, which has kept him out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While he hopes to someday be enshrined in Cooperstown, he says he doesn't think about it too much these days.

"I don't," McGwire said. "If I'm blessed to get that call someday, it'd be another great day."

[RELATED: The Lonely Island spoofs Bash Brothers]

In the meantime, McGwire has enjoyed watching this year's A's team and thinks they have what it takes to make a deep run in the postseason.

"We're tied with Boston for the third-most World Series wins with nine," he said. "Just watching the way the team is playing right now, I'd say they're playing very well at the right time. So they might be breaking that little tie with the Boston Red Sox."