The A’s head into the All-Star break looking forward to more than a mini-vacation. They have a reason to play the rest of the season.
“Absolutely,” second baseman Jed Lowrie said. “We have our eyes on the prize and I think we have the talent to be a playoff contender.”
The A’s beat the Giants 6-2 on Sunday, their 21st victory in their past 27 games, best mark in the majors over that stretch. They have the fifth-best record in the American League and trail the slumping Seattle Mariners by just three games in the race for the second wild card playoff spot.
A year after staggering into the All-Star break with a 39-50 record, the A’s are 55-42. Oakland is above .500 at this point for the first time since 2014, when it made its most recent trip to the postseason.
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With two wins in three games vs. the Giants, the A’s are 8-0-1 in their past nine series since being swept in three home games by the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in mid-June. The Bay Bridge series resumes with three more games in Oakland, beginning Friday.
Their current stretch of success included a 3-1 series win over the Astros in Houston last week, which left manager Bob Melvin with a sense that his team know it belongs.
“The thing I was most impressed with from the Houston series was when they walked off the field the last game, the look in their eye was, `We expected to do this,’ “ Melvin said. “They’ve been tough on us, but these guys just expect to win every night. For younger guys to have that demeanor is impressive.”
Lowrie, who will be joined by A’s closer Blake Treinen at the All-Star Game in Washington D.C. on Tuesday night, said he’s not surprised by the team’s performance.
“If I looked at our lineup at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be a very potent lineup. The back end of the bullpen has been absolutely fantastic, next to automatic,” he said. “We have been very good because of those two aspects.”
Oakland ranks among the AL leaders in extra-base hits, runs, home runs and slugging percentage, and the relief staff’s work has allowed the A’s to stay in games and post 13 come-from-behind wins during their current hot streak. Injuries among have forced Melvin to stitch things together with 12 different starting pitchers. But they have survived it, which merely reinforces his notion that “everybody has contributed.”
Lowrie said the success is a product of preparation, and he’s encouraged that the team’s younger players are seeing the payoff.
“Particularly for younger guys, it’s good to see those results to get that feeling, to see you can win,” Lowrie said. “It’s a hell of a lot more fun when you see the results from that preparation.”
The A’s, 31-21 on the road, play only 29 games away from home the rest of the season, compared to vs. 36 in Oakland. They have 10 more games against the Mariners, seven of them at home.
Melvin points to a four-game road sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays in late May as a turning point in the season. “From that point forward, the guys gained some confidence.”
Down 1-0 against the Giants, the A’s scored four times against Andrew Suarez in the fourth inning, with Mark Canha, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman delivering considering singles before Jonathan Lucroy made it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly.
Piscotty added to the lead with a solo home run in the sixth inning, his 12th on the season and his fifth in his past nine games. Eleven of his homers have come on the road.
Left-hander Sean Manaea, the A’s most dependable starter, improved to 9-6 by scattering five hits over six innings, including a solo homer to Chase d’Arnaud in the sixth. Manaea has won his past 11 starts in day games.
Relievers Ryan Buchter, Lou Trevino and Treinen pitched three hitless innings to close out the game, with Buchter and Treinen each striking out three batters.