It was another fantastic week for the Oakland Athletics, and this time it actually happened in Oakland. The A's dropped the first and last game of Week 12, but they won all of the contests in between for a 5-2 record. That capped a 7-3 homestand, which is a big deal.
The previous homestands finished with records of 3-3, 3-3, 6-4, and 5-2 -- all good, but missing that knockout punch you'd expect from the best team in baseball on a home turf that usually lends its host an advantage. The 5-2 spot against the Tigers and Angels in late May was good, but the split against Detroit felt evenly matched and the A's seemed to just catch the Halos on the right weekend in their subsequent sweep. This one felt different. The A's bombed the Yankees. Then they smoked Yu Darvish and the Rangers. Then they came tantalizingly close to sweeping the Red Sox in four games. This week was the top dog establishing its dominance over the rest of the pack. It may have been a bigger commentary on the demises of the sub-.500 Texas and Boston squads than anything else, but it felt meaningful nonetheless.
The offense wasn't prolific, but it scored consistently and tallied at least four runs in six of the seven games. Yoenis Cespedes led the charge by going 9-for-26 (.346/.433/.615) with two home runs, six RBI, four walks and only three strikeouts. Stephen Vogt drove in six runs as well, on the power of an 8-for-21 line (.381/.416/.619) with a homer and a triple. Alberto Callaspo chipped in with a 9-for-23 week (.391), highlighted by a stretch in which he reached base eight out of nine times immediately after returning from paternity leave. There were homers by the usual suspects: Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and John Jaso. And of course, Coco Crisp played the hero twice within 24 hours by knocking in the go-ahead run in the eighth Friday night and then delivering the walk-off single in the 10th Saturday afternoon. Those two hits came against ace Boston relievers Andrew Miller (2.67 ERA, 14.2 strikeouts per 9ip) and Koji Uehara (1.30 ERA, 11.4 K/9). Uehara then blew his first save of the season on Sunday in monumental fashion by serving up dingers to a pair of catchers. Yu Darvish was tagged for seven runs (four earned) in 5+ innings Tuesday. The A's scored "only" 38 runs (5.4 per game), but they got them when they needed them seemingly by sheer will and the offense felt like it was in total control. Oakland still leads the Majors in runs scored (389).
The pitching was led by everyone, as usual. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir each turned in starts of seven innings and two runs, and Jesse Chavez one-upped them with seven shutout innings. Kazmir now leads the league in ERA (2.08). Tommy Milone was lucky enough to draw matchups against both Darvish and Jon Lester in the same week; he beat Darvish by gutting his way through nearly six frames, and he kept the team close enough against the Red Sox that Oakland was able to come back against Lester and Boston's strong bullpen (3.02 ERA, sixth in MLB) in the late innings. Brad Mills didn't light the world on fire in his spot start on Friday, but the A's won the game. Sean Doolittle faced 12 batters and retired all of them (six K's, two saves), Dan Otero recorded his first career save, Jim Johnson added three scoreless frames in two outings, and the staff allowed only 21 runs in the six games following its 14-run meltdown on Monday. Oakland still leads the Majors in fewest runs allowed (254).
The A's are 47-29, best in baseball, ahead of the Brewers (47-31) and the Giants (45-31). They are five games ahead of the Tigers, Angels and Blue Jays for AL supremacy. Their plus-135 run differential hardly grew, but the competition shrank; the next-best is now the plus-46 mark held by the ... Seattle Mariners? Huh, didn't see that one coming. Here are the main stories from the last week.
Donaldson is back
Remember when Josh Donaldson was slumping? That's over now.
He went 7-for-26 on the week with that homer and five RBI. That's not an amazing week, but it's a lot better than 0-for-everything and it's encouraging that he only struck out four times in 28 plate appearances. And of course, your obligatory defensive highlight:
Never Say Die
The hallmark of this team so far is that it is in every single game. The've lost by as many as seven runs only once, and Monday's 14-8 defeat was only the fourth time that they've lost by as many as five runs. And even then, they nearly came back. Despite being down 10-2 in the fifth, and 11-3 in the sixth, they still brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh. Then, on Sunday, they entered the eighth inning down 6-1 against Lester and rallied for three runs in the frame before swatting a pair of homers off of Uehara in the ninth to tie things up. The A's eventually fell in extra innings, but they took a ho-hum loss, made it exciting, and nearly turned it into a victory.
Even when the A's lose, they almost win.
Welcome to the O.Coco Coliseum
Game-winning hits on back-to-back days from different sides of the plate. Provided without further comment.
Dolla dolla Mills y'all
Brad "Buck" Mills made a spot start in place of the injured Drew Pomeranz. He was acquired from the Brewers for one dollar, and in return the A's got four innings of adequate work. Here's a quick summary of his outing:
1. He has a wipeout curve ball.
2. He has no fastball with which to set it up, but his changeup might be decent.
3. He has no control, or else he had terrible first-start jitters (equally likely).
4. He got flustered with men on base.
5. His outing would have looked a lot better if his defense had backed him up -- Nick Punto botched an inning-ending double play ball, leading to two runs.
6. He was absolutely worth a dollar.
Behold the dollar store curve:
There was bad news: two Athletics hit the DL last week. Drew Pomeranz fractured his non-pitching hand punching a chair after his horrid start on Monday, and Kyle Blanks pulled a calf muscle. On the bright side, Josh Reddick is returning Tuesday to take Blanks' spot on the roster.
Scribbles makes a phantom appearance
Evan Scribner was called up on June 17 to replace Pomeranz. Then he was sent back down on June 20 to make room for Mills. He did not appear in a game while he was in Oakland.
No-trace pitching. Leave only footprints, take only memories.
The Coliseum: My favorite dive bar
Anything you can do ...
... I can do better.
I'm pretty sure Gentry's catch was created using CGI. No way it really happened.
Sean Doolittle: Career .000 hitter
The A's cleared their bench and lost their DH on Sunday. In the 10th inning, the pitcher's spot came to bat, so they turned to the hurler with the most experience hitting. That is, the one who was drafted as a first baseman and posted an .803 OPS in over 1,000 minor league plate appearances. Unfortunately, everybody looks like a Little Leaguer when facing Uehara, and Doolittle is no exception.
And now all I can think about is whether or not Sean Doolittle would get a hit if he faced himself. We will need to clone him in order to find out. Your move, medical science. Don't disappoint me.