The Oakland Athletics finished Week 15 several days ago, but I held back the weekly review until now so that we could refresh our memories upon the return of regular baseball. Let's keep this one short and cover All-Star week and the upcoming Orioles series in next week's edition.
The Oakland Athletics finished the first half of the season (really, the first 95 games, or 58.6 percent) as the best team in the Majors, with a 59-36 record. Unfortunately, the second-best team is the Angels, who are just 1½ games back at 57-37. The A's went 4-3 last week, but the three losses were to Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, and Hisashi Iwakuma, so that's not a bad record considering the competition. The Giants and Mariners are both top-11 teams.
The offense was led by some unlikely heroes. Stephen Vogt continued his assault on reason by batting .364/.417/.682 in 24 plate appearances with two homers, though he did strike out five times. Jed Lowrie went on fire, finally, with a .407/.407/.481 line in 27 PA's. John Jaso went 6-for-19 with a couple extra-base hits, and Coco Crisp got on base like a champ in limited playing time. The big bats took a week off -- Yoenis Cespedes went 1-for-25 with eight strikeouts -- but Brandon Moss at least hit a couple homers and Josh Donaldson added one as well. Then those guys each played in their first All-Star Game, so we'll give them a pass for last week.
The pitching was led by everybody, as usual. Jason Hammel had a rough go of it in his first start as an Athletic, but we can chalk one bad one up to getting used to his new digs. Sonny Gray won both of his starts, allowing a total of only two runs (one earned). Scott Kazmir tossed seven shutout innings to beat Tim Hudson, and Jeff Samardzija went toe-to-toe with Felix Hernandez and had him matched pitch-for-pitch until Robinson Cano lucked into a go-ahead bloop hit. Jesse Chavez ran hot and cold, as usual, which is better than all cold. The bullpen was mostly good outside of Jim Johnson, although Eric O'Flaherty gave up his first runs of the season.
Here are the main stories from last week.
Oakland wins the Bay Bridge Series
For the second straight year, the A's took three out of four games against the San Francisco Giants in the annual Bay Bridge Series. The Giants scored only seven runs in the four-game series, and five of those came in San Francisco's only win.
The Felix Curse
This is the hit that made the difference in the Shark vs. Felix duel.
I mean, c'mon.
Lowrie's hitting streak
After a mostly poor first half, Lowrie is on a nine-game hitting streak in which he's 15-for-35 (.429) with only one strikeout. Six of those were multi-hit efforts, and his season line is up to .239/.321/.346 (90 OPS+). That's still not a good line, but it's better. Baby steps.
Oh, and Lowrie has still been worth 0.6 bWAR despite his poor hitting. That's partly because his defense has been much better this year, though still a tick below average. So, even at his worst Lowrie is a mildly productive player.
Cespedes did it again
Willie Bloomquist has not been watching A's games this year. Even you aren't gritty enough to overcome Yo's cannon, Willie.
That's 11 outfield assists on the season, still the most in MLB.
Vogt left AT&T Park against Cain, and nearly scored a splash hit.
The next day, Donaldson went opposite-field to the notoriously difficult right-field porch at AT&T against Tim Hudson, whose most consistent skill over his career (besides winning) has been keeping the ball in the park.
Hot Dog pulls a hammy
Well that's a bummer. Alberto Callaspo has been a useful player for Oakland this year, and less of him means more of Eric Sogard and Andy Parrino. He's on the 15-day DL, but you never know how long a hamstring might take to fully recover. It could be two weeks or two months. A trade for a new second baseman seems even more likely and necessary now.
Apparently, you can be thrown out of a game after the game has already ended. That's what happened to Nick Punto and Bob Melvin for arguing this questionable strike three, which represented the final out in a one-run game with the tying run on base. Judge the call for yourself.
Nick Punto homers again!
Look out for Babe Punto.
That's Shredder's second dinger of the year, which matches his total from last year in just over half the plate appearances. His career-high is four, which he achieved once. Get it, big guy.