ARLINGTON, Texas — This is no longer just a mirage. It’s not just a hot streak. They’re not just getting lucky. These A’s are for real.
Now at 60-43 after Khris Davis continued to terrorize the Rangers in yet another comeback victory Wednesday night, the A’s would qualify for the best record in the National League right now.
They reside in the much tougher American League, still third place in their own division, but the Seattle Mariners can hear the elephant-sized footsteps coming as the A’s are just 1 1/2 games behind them for the second wild card spot.
Let’s take a quick look at 10 reasons why the A’s have been able to make such a magical run as they look to end a three-year playoff drought.
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One of the best offenses in baseball
The A’s are top-five in most offensive categories. It starts with Khris Davis, who has crushed more home runs than any player in the majors since the start of the 2016 season with 112. His 27 homers this season are good for fourth-most in the majors this season, and 77 RBIs the second-most. One through the nine, the A’s have a lineup that can hurt you, and they straight up slaughter pitchers on the road. The A’s have smacked 95 home runs and scored 315 runs on the road, both by far and away the most of any team in baseball. They also make opposing pitchers work on the road with 182 walks away from Oakland, third-most in the A.L.
A lights-out bullpen
This bullpen was already great, and then A’s GM David Forst went out and traded for Jeurys Familia to basically give the A’s three closers in the back end along with rookie sensation Lou Trivino and All-Star Blake Treinen. The minuscule 1.04 ERA on Treinen leads all relievers. Yusmeiro Petit has provided quantity, with his 63 innings leading all relievers this season, and quality, with a 3.43 ERA in 48 appearances as the finesse pitcher often serves as the bridge to the flame-throwing back end. Along with guys like Ryan Buchter and Emilio Pagan, the A’s bullpen as a whole has combined for a 3.54 ERA this season, good for fourth in the American League.
Chapman’s unreal defense at the hot corner
In a sport where Nolan Arenado exists, Matt Chapman is the best defensive third baseman in baseball. I can give you the stats like his 23 defensive runs saved and 2.7 defensive WAR, both the best of any player in baseball. But all you have to do is watch an A’s game, because he’s good for at least one incredible defensive gem per night that will often end up saving the game.
Olson’s steady defense
When Matt Olson went on a tear to end the 2017 season, you might have thought power was his best asset. It’s still a good one, as he’s crushed 21 homers this year, but his defense is also terrific. Olson may not be as flashy as Chapman with the glove, but he’s not too far behind in terms of his value over at first base. His 25 scoops at first base this season lead the majors, saving the rest of the infield, including Chapman, from potential errors.
Playing in a tough division
They say competition brings out the best in people, and there’s no tougher division in baseball than the A.L. West. With three teams at 60 wins or better, including the reigning world champion Houston Astros, the A’s continue to hang with the big dogs. Though they’re 18-26 against the division, the A’s are play much better against it as of late, 8-2 in their last 10 division games.
Piscotty in the clutch
Stephen Piscotty is having a strong bounce-back season overall, batting .265 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles, and 50 RBIs, but it’s the big moments where he’s really shined. He tied the game in the ninth with a home run Tuesday to hand Rangers closer Keone Kela his first blown save of the season. He did the same thing against Padres lights-out closer Brad Hand in San Diego last month when this unreal run started. Six of Piscotty’s home runs and 20 RBIs have come when the A’s were trailing by one run, as he’s batting .281 in such situations.
Melvin’s managing style
Bob Melvin is the runaway pick for A.L. Manager of the Year right now. He’s navigated through countless injuries, pushed all the right buttons with the bullpen, and has instilled a winning mentality with these young A’s. They say a team is often a reflection of their manager, and that has been the case with Oakland this season.
Unlikely step-ups from starters
Twelve different pitchers have made a start for the A’s this season. They lost Jharel Cotton and AJ Puk to Tommy John in spring training. Kendall Graveman’s disastrous season took him from Opening Day starter, to the minor leagues, to season-ending surgery. Sean Manaea is the only guy yet to miss a start this season, yet they’ve gotten by. Edwin Jackson, on his 13th different MLB team, has come out of nowhere to give Melvin quality innings. Trevor Cahill has stepped into a time machine, with a 2.95 ERA in 10 starts and an unreal 0.80 ERA at home. Frankie Montas has resurrected himself from his path to long reliever in the minors to a quality starter in the rotation. Daniel Mengden picked up the slack with a fantastic month of May while Manaea dealt with mechanical issues. No matter who has gone down, someone else has managed to step up.
Jed Lowrie has followed up a career year with another career year. He’s already set a new career-high with 17 home runs this year, batting .282 with 65 RBIs. The A’s offense is firing on all cylinders now, but early in the season when guys like Olson and Piscotty were off to a slow start, it was Lowrie who carried the offense on his back.
Never say die
You truly can’t sleep on these A’s until the final out is recorded. The A’s are now a majors-best 26-7 since June 16, with 17 of those wins of the come-from-behind variety. The A’s have scored the winning run in the eighth inning or later in 12 of those victories.