The Oakland Athletics lead the American League with 12 wins. They are finding success with one of their best position players, Yoenis Cespedes, on the disabled list and one of their best pitchers, Jarrod Parker, struggling. The A's have also found a way to win while Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss have missed games.
Sure, half of their wins are against the Houston Astros, but it's hard to discount that the A's are off to their best 16-game start since 1990, based on the fact they've had to do it without several of their key contributors.
The reason they A's have been successful is because they have a balanced team. They don't rely on one or two big players to carry them. As manager Bob Melvin often says, the team likes to "pass the baton" offensively.
"We're doing a lot of the little things well, and that's what it takes to win," shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "I don't think one guy is doing anything more than what they should be. I think we are getting contributions up and down the lineup, that's why we've been consistent so far."
The A's have gone 84-43 since June 1, 2012, which is the best record in Major League Baseball over that span. They have picked up where they left off last season, proving their performance wasn't a fluke.
"We've got a very talented ballclub," catcher Derek Norris said. "We have good pitching and timely hitting and that will get you a lot of wins."
The A's are first in MLB in runs (96), walks (70) and doubles (40), and first in the AL with a .354 on-base percentage.
On the Road Again:
The A's are a perfect 6-0 on the road this season, their longest season-opening road winning streak since 1990. On their only road trip they swept the Angels in Anaheim and the Astros in Houston. The A's have only faced teams in their division. A trip to compete against the American League East presents them with new challenges. The A's have been successful against the Rays recently, winning three straight series against them.
Price is Right:
The top of the A's starting rotation will be opposing the Rays in this three game series. The Rays' best pitcher and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, David Price, will not be taking the mound against the A's. That's a big break, but Oakland hasn't been too successful against Alex Cobb, who pitches in the first game of the series. Cobb was 2-0 against the A's last season and threw his first career shutout against them on Aug. 23 in Florida.
Outfielder Seth Smith is easily the most underrated player on the team. Of Smith's 12 games this season, five have been multi-hit efforts. He enters the series against the Rays batting .447 with one home run and seven RBI. Smith, a left-handed hitter, was predominantly used as a platoon player in 2012. This season he is hitting .667 (8-for-12) against left-handed pitchers, instilling confidence in his skipper to leave him in the game when a lefty comes out of the bullpen.