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Athletics vs Indians: First Test of the Second Half

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The All Star Break is officially behind us, and the god forsaken baseball-less days of summer are over and done with. Surely though, the break was welcomed and sorely needed by the players on the field, and so ideally the A’s will begin the second half of the season well rested and free from any lingering aches and pains, and able to play at their best. When the A’s are at their best, they can compete with any team in the game, it's just unfortunate how rarely the team was at full strength and able to put everything together simultaneously on the field during the season’s first half. All signs are pointing towards a much more pleasant and fun to watch team for the remainder of the season, following what should be an interesting and chaotic couple of weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

  • Houston: 60-29
  • Anaheim: 45-47
  • Texas: 43-45
  • Seattle: 43-47
  • Oakland: 39-50

Playoffs are more likely a pipe dream than not, but with every team other than Houston struggling mightily on the season, the A’s are tantalizingly close to the sub-.500 fracas for second place in the division. While finishing second place would ultimately be meaningless, it would bode well for the following season, when fans and management alike could reasonably assume the team will compete in 2018. Starting in August, the inter-divisional matchups resume, and that is the best time for the A’s to make a surge within the division.

As the most complete team in their division, the Cleveland Indians were supposed to run away in the AL Central this season as the clear favorites in the division, with Chicago rebuilding, Detroit and Kansas City on the rapid decline, and Minnesota continuing to spin their wheels. However, after Kansas City recovered from a miserable start to the year and re-discovering the type of irritating magic that made the Royals such a threat just a couple years back, and after the Twins’ young team finally started to put things together unexpectedly, the Indians just took command of the division lead before the break and are just barely holding onto the division lead in what is the tightest division race in all of baseball.

The primary reason Cleveland hasn’t been able to be an Astros-equivalent in the AL Central is the Indians’ abysmal record at home, currently sitting at a paltry 21-24 in front of their home crowd (the only teams with worse home records are the bottom-tiered National League teams as well as, somewhat surprisingly, the Twins). While Cleveland’s pitching staff is mega-talented and can cut through any opposing lineup like a knife through butter (Cleveland’s staff currently has the best run-prevention in the American League), the Indians’ have been hard pressed for power on offense and have struggled to score enough at home, and in general, as a result. These home struggles don’t figure to be sustainable and shouldn’t be repeated in the season’s second half, but baseball can be awfully difficult to predict.

Who’s Hot/Not

For a team that lives and dies vis-a-vis its pitching, Corey Kluber is still the clear ace and staff leader. The righty had struck out at least ten batters in five consecutive starts, an Indians’ record, before only striking out eight batters in his final start before the break, and has nearly one hundred more strikeouts than walks on the season (123 K’s to 24 BB’s). Carlos Carrasco has also fully grown into himself as a pitcher and has been dominant all season, making for a very formidable front of the rotation.

The self-proclaimed “most scientific” ball player in the game has been cross-wired most of the season, as Trevor Bauer still can’t master his command and keep the number of home runs he surrenders down. Despite his ace potential, Bauer is pitching to the tune of an ERA north of five while struggling to pitch deep into games.

The Matchups

Friday, July 14th at 7:05 - Sonny Gray versus Carlos Carrasco

Saturday, July 15th at 6:05 - Paul Blackburn versus Corey Kluber

Sunday, July 16th at 1:05 - Sean Manaea versus Trevor Bauer

All games are on NBCSCA and MLB.tv