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Happy Anniversary! ... Hopefully

Oakland Athletics v Colorado Rockies
The road to 97 wins begins with a single pitch.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Well game 70 sure was a clunker, with unexpected key errors and bobbles from Marcus Semien and Matt Olson, repeated attempts to turn Marco Gonzales into an ace by flailing at ball 4, and relief pitching mostly focused on giving up 2-run HRs. It sure looks like this 35-35 team is the epitome of a .500 ball club.

Here is where I wish I could make the internet turn wavy while playing music that evokes the feeling of a flashback, transporting you back exactly one year. It was June 15th, 2018 that the A’s, having gone a “run in place” 14-14 in March/April and a similar “two steps forward, two steps back” 15-14 in May, dropped to 34-36 with an 8-4 loss to the Angels.

I doubt this was the moment any fan was anticipating a dramatic turnaround, as that loss a year ago today was Oakland’s 4th in a row following a 3-game series sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros. The A’s weren’t good, nor were they trending in the right direction.

Then came game 71, a pleasant 6-4 comeback win on a Saturday at the Coliseum. I suppose you could say the exact rock bottom for 2018 season was halfway through that game when Sean Manaea gave up 3 runs in the top of the 5th and the A’s trailed 3-1 before scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the 6th and never looking back — all season, as it turned out.

The turnaround was as dramatic as it was unforeshadowed. As if a switch had been flipped, the A’s became a team that did not appear to know how to lose, whether the score was 10-2 Rangers, whether the team was down to its last strike in San Diego or Arlington, no matter which starting pitcher was next to go down only to be replaced by a different unwanted pitcher who would shine even brighter than his predecessor.

For no discernible reason, the A’s went 63-29 beginning on that third Saturday in June, game 71 of a seemingly mediocre “run in place” season marked by a shaky rotation and an aggravating inability to beat the Astros. Sound familiar?

So here’s a fun exercise. Can you recall what the A’s starting rotation was mid-June, 2018? See how many of the 5 starting pitchers you can name. It’s kind of like trying to recall the A’s infield in May, 2012, when that magical team boasted the likes of Kila Ki’aihue and Luke Hughes. Give it a whirl and I’ll give you the truth below.

Hey, stop trying to cheat!

No, it’s not in this paragraph either. But it is in the next one.

The rotation mid-June was full of familiar names, but it was not a rotation that inspired much fear. You should have guessed Sean Manaea, since I mentioned his start in game 71. Frankie Montas was also in the rotation but was sans splitter and was coming off a disastrous start against the Astros in which he allowed 11 hits and 7 runs in 5.1 IP. The rest of the rotation was filled out by Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, and Chris Bassitt. (If you guessed Edwin Jackson, he did not join the rotation until June 25th.)

The main difference between 2018 and 2019? Last year at this time, the A’s couldn’t look ahead to adding the likes of Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, or A.J. Puk to the mix in the second half. They did get back Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, and traded for Mike Fiers, and of course Jackson pitched about as well as he ever has, putting up a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts.

But Oakland’s 63-29 sprint to the finish line was hard to see coming whether you looked at the team’s performance to date, at the current roster, or even at the projected roster going forward. So happy anniversary, A’s fans!. Here’s to history repeating itself as the A’s turn to their ace — this time Frankie Montas — on the third Saturday in June, for game 71. See you at 6:07pm for the first game of ... the rest of the season.


This A’s team is 35-35 on their way to winning about how many games in 2019?

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