The Oakland A’s are off to as good of a start as anyone could have reasonably hoped for. Their record is 18-16, a couple games on the winning side of .500, and they’ve put that together against a balanced mix of good, bad, and mediocre opponents. For now they’re out of last place, with a reasonable hope to stay that way through year’s end.
However, there is a serious test coming up for the rest of the month of May. The A’s face just about the toughest schedule possible over the next three weeks (team records in parentheses):
- 3 games against Astros (21-15)
- 3 games at Yankees (24-10)
- 3 games at Red Sox (25-9)
- 4 games at Blue Jays (19-16)
- 3 games against Mariners (19-14)
- 3 games against D’Backs (23-11)
That list includes five of the six current best teams in the AL by record, with only the Angels missing. In their place, we get the current best team in the NL, in our toughest interleague matchup of the year. The Red Sox and Yankees sport the best records in all of MLB, and the A’s have to face them on the road in their daunting home parks. There will only be two off-days amid this stretch, one on each side of the extended East Coast trip, making them more like travel days than true rest breaks.
This is where the 2018 season gets real. Most of us aren’t expecting the A’s to truly contend for the postseason, but at the same time we’re all hoping the improvement we’ve seen so far is genuine. We want to stick around .500 if possible, rather than dropping into another dogfight for the cellar and settling for 75 wins. Taking a few extra losses against these top opponents would be generally acceptable, but laying down completely and tanking a whole month would be disappointing.
And that’s the test. Can the green and gold hold their own as they pass through this gauntlet? Can they hang in there and win at least eight or nine of these 19 games, or will they face a couple sweeps and lose all the momentum they’ve built? Can they surprise us all and somehow come out ahead against the best of the best?
One way or other, we’ll find out a whole lot more about this team during the month of May. In particular, we’ll get a better idea of which members of this makeshift starting rotation are for real, and which ones will get smashed in tougher conditions. We’ve already seen the pitchers hold up against Boston in the Coliseum, but how will they look in the bandbox of Fenway? Can they keep the ball in the park in the laughable launching pads of Yankee Stadium and the Rogers Centre?
Of course, the month of June will bring a whole different test. They’ll get 19 games against the doormats of both leagues, including the Rangers, Royals, White Sox, Tigers, and Padres (sandwiched around a week of Astros/Angels). That group features currently four of the five worst records in the AL (missing only the Orioles), and the second-worst record in the NL (better than only the Reds).
While May will be a lesson in hanging in there when the going gets tough, June will be the chance to fatten up against the dregs that a .500 team is expected to beat — just as we witnessed last weekend against Baltimore. It could also be the chance for a mulligan if May goes poorly, with the ability to take care of business in June and settle back around .500 once again. That means May is an important test, but not necessarily the final exam.
In the meantime, though, the immediate task at hand is to rise to the occasion as much as possible against MLB’s best clubs. We’ve seen the A’s accomplish this once already in a small sample, even reaching the point of domination with a no-hitter against an elite lineup. Now they’ll have to do it for almost a full month.
Bring it on.
As a refresher, see the full 2018 schedule below. Here are some more thoughts on the whole thing, from last September when it was announced.
And for good luck, here is a guy dancing on the schedule for some reason.
Dance through the 50th anniversary schedule! Check out the Oakland A's 2018 schedule, which includes a free game. https://t.co/2YxCYfvjxQ pic.twitter.com/yUPM11Vhzi— Oakland Athletics ⚾️ (@Athletics) September 12, 2017