Photo credit: @Athletics
By Jerry Feitelberg
The second half of the 2018 season begins on Friday when the Oakland A’s host the San Francisco Giants for three games at the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s, without question, are one of the biggest surprises in the MLB this season. They’ll resume their quest to make the playoffs. The A’s, picked by many pundits to finish last in the American League West and win no more than 67 games, are sitting in third place in the AL West and just three games behind the Seattle Mariners in the quest for the second Wild Card seed.
The A’s went 7-3 on the 10-game road trip just before the All-Star break and picked up four games on the Mariners, who went 3-7 in their last 10 games. The A’s won two out three at Cleveland then won three out of four from the Houston Astros. They almost had a sweep, but they lost a game on a very unusual play that most fans and people in the media cannot recall ever seeing. But the A’s refused to fold. They regained their composure and were able to hold their own with the Astros. The Astros arguably have the best starting rotation in baseball. The A’s were unfazed as they faced Gerrit Cole, Justin, Verlander, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton. They then finished the trip by winning two out three against the Giants.
The A’s, under manager Bob Melvin, shows no sign of quitting. They are very resilient and play with a ton of confidence. They know that no game is out of reach and that they have shown a propensity for scoring runs late in the game.
The starting rotation has been a work in progress all season. The A’s were counting on Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk to be in the starting rotation. Both players are on the DL as they have had season-ending Tommy John surgeries. Paul Blackburn, Daniel Gossett, Daniel Mengden, and Andrew Triggs have all been sidelined due to injury. Mengden is off the DL, but has been optioned back to the Nashville Sounds.
The A’s current rotation consists of lefties Sean Manaea and Brett Anderson. Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Frankie Montas are the right-handed starters. Cahill and Anderson have spent time on the DL. Both have had a couple of good games, but have not been consistent. Montas is 5-2 and has impressed even the biggest critics.
The A’s bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. Emilio Pagan, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, Lou Trivino, and Blake Treinen have been outstanding. Chris Hatcher did well earlier in the season, but has not been effective lately. Ryan Dull and Danny Coulombe did not do the job, and both are in Nashville. Liam Hendriks and Santiago Casilla have been designated for assignment and are probably not in the A’s upcoming plans. The A’s added lefty Jeremy Bleich and righty J.B. Wendelken, but they have to prove that they can stay in Oakland.
The A’s offense is led by Jed Lowrie. Lowrie, at age 34, made the All-Star team this year. Lowrie, who set a club record with 49 doubles last year, is probably having the best year in his career. Lowrie is hitting a smidge under .290 and has 16 home runs and about 60 runs batted in so far.
The A’s have power guys up and down the lineup. Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Mark Canha, Stephen Piscotty, Marcus Semien, and Khris Davis all are capable of sending a baseball into the stratosphere.
The catching chores are handled by Jonathan Lucroy and Josh Phegley. Lucroy doesn’t have much power, but he knows how to get the most from the pitching staff and has been invaluable to the A’s.
The A’s are on the right track. The big question right now as the trade deadline nears is whether the A’s will be sellers or buyers or will they do nothing? Many think the A’s need to make a move to get another quality starter. The price could be too high for Beane and Forst to make a move. The fans would be upset if the A’s traded any of their young stars. Many people speculate that the A’s might move Lowrie and play Barreto at second base.
Time will tell, and in the meantime, the team has to keep on winning.