Programming note: A's-Angels coverage kicks off at 6:30 p.m. tonight with A's Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California!
I checked the tape.It was from Postgame Live on Friday, June 1st. Just moments prior, the A's had lost their season-high ninth in a row, and were now nine games under .500. They'd been shutout in two straight games, which saw Oakland tally a grand total of 6 hits. I turned to Greg Cadaret on-air and wondered if we had just witnessed the unraveling of a baseball season, right before our eyes.Fast forward 101 days, and the A's are a season-high 19 games over .500, with the second-best record in the American League. Their undisputed formula for winning has been no secret:RELATED: Division standings Wild Card standings
- Outstanding starting pitching (3.71 ERA This season, and they've walked 3 or less batters in each of the last 38 games)
- The bats have generated timely longballs (A's have home runs in 14 of the last 15 games)
- The defense has been trustworthy (.983 Fielding percentage which is tied for 12th best in MLB)But beyond all of the measurable stats and figures, there are even more incredible story-lines and angles that can't be measured by numbers. They are what makes this turnaround so special.They Are Resilient
Most recently, the A's were swept over Labor Day weekend by the Angels. In 27 innings they lost a 9 game winning streak, a lot of momentum... and their ace Brandon McCarthy for the rest of the season. What was their reward? A date with Felix Hernandez on Friday night, where Oakland walked away with a 6-1 victory, and eventually a 3 game sweep of the Mariners. This story has been repeated all Summer long. The A's dropped a "should-win" series to Kansas City in mid-August, and responded by taking their next 5. Two separate occasions this season, Oakland has hosted the team with MLB's best record (Dodgers in June, Yankees in July)... and swept them both. You get the picture.Waiting in the Wings
The A's starting rotation features precisely one pitcher from its Opening Day staff. Tommy Milone, the eldest statesman at 25, is now surrounded by Brett Anderson, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, and Dan Straily. Oakland's hurlers are a prime example of how young players have stepped in, made the most of opportunities, and earned permanent roles. But they are not the only ones.Chris Carter. Brandon Moss. Josh Donaldson. Derek Norris. All position players who were not necessarily even in the A's plans coming out of Spring Training, but have each since won their job by performing when the team needed them most. No club carries the identical roster between games 1 and 162, but Oakland has been fortunate to equal and even improve with the new faces they've brought in.Pulling All The Right Strings
Bob Melvin, at the very least, should be a finalist for AL Manager of the Year. In making lineups, he has used players and matchups to their fullest potentials... for examples, see the SmithGomes and CarterMoss duos. He's been order-flexible in moving guys like Josh Reddick around, specifically to help him out of recent struggles. And Melvin committed to the winning formula in making Coco Crisp the unquestioned leadoff hitter, which ultimately sparked the A's in mid-June. All of this in addition to keeping his players loose, excited, and content in a turnaround-type season.The A's have also been deliberate as a franchise this year: terminating their experiment with Manny Ramirez, trading fan-favorite Kurt Suzuki to Washington and sending everyday-starter Jemile Weeks to Triple-A. Patient approaches of the past have been replaced with the need to perform now... a collaboration of moves which just might pay off for Oakland in October.