Athletics Series Could Be Biggest Of The Year
For the first two months of the season, the Orioles were one of the biggest surprise teams in Major League Baseball. This weekend, the Birds will meet a team that has since usurped them in that title -- the Oakland Athletics.
The Blue Jays snapped Oakland's seven-game winning streak Thursday during a 10-4 loss. The Athletics are a remarkable 16-2 in July and 31-15 since June 1. They are now 53-45, just ahead of the Orioles (52-47) in the wild-card chase.
Their current run calls to mind the "Moneyball" team of 10 years ago in terms of mid-season success. As the Orioles were doing during the first half of the season, the Athletics are winning the close games. During July, they've taken eight one-run games.
The fact that the Atheltics are batting .229 as a team during the season is fairly remarkable. Their best hitter, Josh Reddick, is hitting .271, with 22 home runs and 47 RBIs. Chris Carter and Yoenis Cespedes (a Cuban defector the Athletics beat the Orioles on in signing) have been terrific lately. Carter has six home runs during 15 games, while Cespedes has 13 home runs and 50 RBIs.
It's the pitching staff, with an MLB-best 3.38 ERA, that tells the real story in Oakland. Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker (7-4, 3.00 ERA) and A.J. Griffin are all young and have been superb rotation members lately. Travis Blackley, a journeyman, has been solid as well. The Orioles will face Parker tonight, veteran Bartolo Colon (6-8, 3.97 ERA) Saturday, and Blackley (3-2, 2.69 ERA) on Sunday.
The Orioles are 2-1 against the Athletics this year. Colon, in a game the Athletics somehow lost April 29, was strong at Camden Yards. He threw 8.1 innings, giving up seven hits and two runs. He didn't take the decision during the 5-2 loss.The Orioles faced a dramatically different Athletics team in April. The A's are now players in the wild-card chase and in the hyper-competitive AL West.
The Orioles will need outstanding outings from Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Wei-Yin Chen during the next three days. This is as important a series as the Orioles will have this season, and a true test of where they are going in 2012.
Posted July 27, 2012