Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 8/17/13
Even though the Oakland Athletics are a half game back from the AL West leaders, the Texas Rangers, A’s still have a fairly good chance of winning  the AL West. The Athletics have a few tricks up their sleeve that will help them during the final countdown to the postseason, and they will ultimately squeak by the Rangers. Young Team, More Energy Let’s face it – compared to the Athletics, the Rangers are an old team who are known for choking. They could not compete with the young pitching of the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series, they choked in the 2011 World Series, and they floundered in September of the 2012 season.  It is clear that these past three years have deflated the Rangers’ confidence. This paves the way for the younger team to take the AL West in 2013. Additionally, the Athletics are known for having that late season spark. In August and September of 2002, the Athletics won 20-straight games and ended with a 103-59 record. Then in 2012, the Athletics overcame a five game deficit to win the AL West in less than 10 games. After having one of the best first halves the Oakland Athletics have had in while, the A’s rookies have kept the energy high for the second half of the season. Ultimately, the lineup is already heating up. Josh Reddick has snapped out of his slump with five home runs in two games last week, and Nate Freiman has a .360 ERA for the past ten games which includes nine hits and one home run. It seems as though the late season spark has just begun. Pitching Grant Balfour Currently, the Oakland Athletics are 8th in the MLB for overall ERA with a 3.61 and 3rd when it comes to WHIP. The A’s currently have a 1.20 average WHIP. This bullpen is definitely one of the best in the AL West. Even though they lost Brett Anderson to an injury and had Tommy Milone designated to Triple-A, the Athletics pitching has been solid with glimpses of brilliance. There are three A’s pitchers that have certainly carried the bullpen. Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour, and Sonny Gray have set the bar high for the Athletics’ pitching rotation. At 40-years-old, Colon had a win streak that lasted from May 9th to July 3rd and was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for June. Closer Grant Balfour has 31 saves out of 32 chances this season, and was on the American League All-Star team. Late addition Sonny Gray was brought up from Triple-A mid-season and has proven that he was meant to pitch in the MLB. Gray has a 1.00 ERA with a 0.83 WHIP in 18 innings pitched. Even though these pitchers are definitely the stars of the bullpen this year, the Athletics’ pitching has been strong and consistent overall. Mid-Season Additions The Athletics made some clutch changes to their lineup and bullpen half way through the season. Even though these changes showed little effect in the beginning, it is now clear that these changes are benefiting the Athletics. The key changes were moving Sonny Gray up from Triple-A and acquiring Alberto Callaspo.  Alberto Callaspo came to the Athletics dugout just before the trade deadline. Even though he was initially seen as a bonus to the A’s lineup, he has become a familiar member to the lineup after multiple Athletics acquired injuries within the span on a couple weeks. With a solid .249 ERA and .323 OBP, Callaspo has been a consistent player for the Athletics. Sonny Gray was the bright light when he came in as a mid-game reliever in late July in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gray pitched two scoreless innings, but was sent back to Triple-A shortly after. This was just a taste of the talent Gray would bring to the A’s bullpen. Then in August, Gray made his first MLB start. He was able to strike out five over six strong innings. Gray earned his first major league win on August 16th when he threw 118 pitchers over eight innings. Gray was able to strikeout nine and only allowed four hits. With Gray now a regular in the pitching rotation, the Athletics have a great chance of taking the AL West. Schedule While the AL West leaders the Texas Rangers play 16 games against teams with a .500 record or higher throughout September, the A’s play only seven games against teams with a .500 or higher record. Additionally, the Athletics have home field advantage in more than half of the games they will play in September. This could not only boost them ahead of the Rangers, but could help provide a repeat of the 2002 season. The stars seem to be aligned for this underdog team. With about six weeks left in the season, the Athletics have plenty of time to surpass the Rangers in order to win the AL West.
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