Next 16 games

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Jarrod Parker #11 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at O.co Coliseum on August 6, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Over the next 16 games, the A's will play 13 of them against teams that represent the bottom crust of the AL: KC, MIN, TB (the good team), and CLE. As of this morning, the A's sit at 0.5 games back for WC2, behind both Baltimore and TB, the latter of whom has won 7 straight and appears to be hitting its stride at just the right time.

The A's have Brandon McCarthy back now, hopefully for the rest of the year, and with the off days surrounding the White Sox series, have managed to give Jarrod Parker and Tom Milone some much-needed rest. Seth Smith appears to be on the mend (while Brandon Inge appears DL bound), and Brett Anderson may yet contribute this year.

I cannot state this any clearer: the A's must take advantage of this relatively soft stretch of schedule. Playoff teams (most of them at least) follow a relatively simple formula: play at least .500 against the league's elite, then pummel the bottom feeders. The 2006 A's were famously 17-2 vs. Seattle. The 2009 Yankees were 13-5 vs. Baltimore. The 2007 Red Sox were 13-5 against the (then) Devil Rays. After all, it doesn't get any easier for the A's: of their remaining games AFTER this stretch, only the 6 games against Seattle are against non-contenders. Surely, it's possible the 9/14 series against Baltimore will finally show their -49 run differential before then; however, given how far they've come with such a bad a RD, this seems unlikely. What's more, Seattle aren't the patsies they normally are when they play the A's. They lead the season series against the A's 7-6 after taking the series 10-9 last year.

This year's A's are perhaps baseball's most fascinating story: having traded away their recognizable players, they succeed with unexpected performances from their acquisitions and 18 rookies overall. Here's hoping they keep this exciting season going.

Join me in the late afternoon for the first of these games. The Royals throw Jeremy Guthrie, he of the now-infamous Jonathan Sanchez trade to the Rockies, against a rested Jarrod Parker. Seems like a favorable matchup for the A's. Let's hope Guthrie brought some of that thin Denver air with him.

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