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Next Up: The Battle for First

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The A's will end the day no worse than tied for first place in the AL West.

They thoroughly outclassed the Kansas City Royals (I believe I remember Ratto calling Oakland "Kansas City West" before the season started, no?). But it's one thing to beat up on a team that's won one game in their last 11 and another one entirely to compete with your main combatant in the division race.

The Royals offense is 24th in the majors in runs scored, 27th in OPS and 24th in batting average. The Royals pitching has an average 5.51 ERA and is 29th in the majors in ERA and 29th in WHIP.

The Angels will be a much stiffer challenge, despite their recent mediocre play. But the A's have lined up Rich Harden and Barry Zito for the first two games. At least the A's avoided Shrek as he is pitching today for the Angels.

But before we completely leave KC behind, let's realize what the A's offense did over the last two days...33 hits, 14 walks, 27 runs and four home runs. Billy Beane must feel like Aristotle's god these days...able to step back and contemplate other things while his magnificent creation continues to be excel on its own. This team is now has the third best record in baseball behind the White Sox and Cardinals.

I'm truly concerned about Mark Kotsay's back. Kots did not look good running the bases today and had to come out early. If his back is as bad as it seems, perhaps it's time to put him on DL and make sure he is 100 percent healthy for the stretch run.

Either way, tune in tomorrow for my brief conversation with Eric Chavez.