It had been almost 10 years since the Oakland Athletics pulled off a series sweep in New York against the Yankees, but now the 2016 A’s can say they’ve done just that thanks to some great pitching and some more timely hitting.
Needless to say, if Oakland can hit with any consistency this season, the pitching staff will keep the team in contention for an American League playoff spot. With a 9-7 record overall currently, the A’s are knocking on the door early in the season.
Winners of five straight games now, the Oakland squad heads to Toronto tonight for a three-game set against the Blue Jays—and the pitching staff really will get tested in Canada as Toronto’s potent bats are pretty much the best in the league.
The A’s already have matched last year’s best win streak, and it’s getting more apparent every day that the 2015 disaster is behind this club. Start with the bullpen: The 4.63 ERA from the relievers last year, not to mention the 31 losses, buried Oakland at the bottom of the AL standing. Now, the relief corps’ 2.53 ERA is keeping the A’s in almost every game they play.
Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Yankees was an 11-inning battle, where Oakland received 5 1/3 scoreless innings from its bullpen. After Mark Canha drove in the winning run in the top of the inning, Ryan Madson was ready in the bottom of the inning to close the game and get his fifth save of the year.
Kendall Graveman pitched very well into the seventh inning on Wednesday night, and this time, it was Sean Doolittle closing the door in the ninth inning for the 5-2 win. His second save demonstrates Manager Bob Melvin hasn’t lost faith in his favorite lefty, despite some rough patches earlier in the season.
Finally, Thursday’s finale brought Madson back out in the ninth rather unnecessarily in a 7-3 victory. Liam Hendriks continues to struggle a bit, and although he didn’t give up any runs, he made Melvin nervous enough to the end of the game to call on Madson even with a four-run lead.
If you’re counting at home, that was seven total runs for the Bronx Bombers in 29 innings this week against Oakland pitching. The A’s have a 2.69 ERA as a team in 2016, which is currently second in the AL. With that kind of mound support, all the hitters need to do is punch in a few runs themselves, right?
Scoring five runs a game should do the trick most of the time for Oakland this year, and that’s what the A’s did in New York. For the season, however, Oakland has scored just 3.3 runs per game. In this five-game win streak, which includes two home wins over the Kansas City Royals last weekend, the A’s have scored 4.6 times per contest.
With the reliable pitching stabilizing itself on all fronts right now, Oakland just needs to score a bit more to win consistently. Khris Davis finally hit his first home run of the season on Thursday, so perhaps he will get on track now. But the A’s lineup flexibility took a hit with Danny Valencia’s hamstring injury: He will be on the disabled list for awhile.
This may been more third base for Chris Coghlan—and it might get Canha and Billy Butler into the lineup more regularly. The Oakland roster has depth to absorb this, which is amazing considering the low payroll and the amount of money tied up in just two players (Butler and Coco Crisp are making around $23 million combined this season).
Either way, Melvin seems to have the team headed in the right direction. A’s fans can’t complain right now as the team looks to be the best one in the Bay Area.