Before about three weeks ago, seemingly every conversation about the Oakland Athletics had nothing to do with what they were doing on the diamond.
Reports of the organization overhauling its front office were the flavor of the day last month. Before the season, it was incessant discussions about whether or not the A’s would be able to build a stadium in Oakland. Now, it’s time to pay attention to the team playing the best baseball in the big leagues.
Yes, the A’s are the hottest team in baseball. Hotter than the reigning World Series champion Astors, hotter than the Red and, yes, hotter than the Yankees.
Heading into Tuesday’s tilt against the Houston Astros, Oakland had won 17 of their last 21 games, and sat six games back of the Seattle Mariners for the second American League wild-card spot.
That’s right, the A’s — perennial holders of one of the lowest payrolls in baseball (last in the majors this year at just shy of $83 million according to spotrac.com) — are rolling, and they’ve picked up a flair for the dramatic, to boot.
After the sixth inning of games this year, the A’s are first baseball in homers (49), fourth in RBI (156) third in batting average (.265) fourth in OBP (.343). They’re first in slugging (.479) and OPS (.822) when games start to get turned over to the bullpen.
After Monday’s win over the Astros, the A’s were a season-high 11 games over .500 (51-40) despite having eight players currently on the disabled list, not to mention the whopping 12 different starting pitchers they’ve used.
Oh, and if you’re trailing this bunch after seven innings, good night. Might as well pick up your equipment and hit the showers. Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen have been that good.
Treinen — who’s saved 20 consecutive games and was named to his first-career All-Star Game — has been automatic. Over the last 28 days, he has a 0.61 era, 0.86 whip, and 20 strikeouts. His 99-mph power sinker may be the filthiest pitch in baseball. It’s just not fair.
Rookie Lou Trivino has been just as impressive as Treinen over the last month. He’s carrying a 1.34 era on the season, and an even better 0.57 era, 0.51 whip, and 18 strikeouts in 15 innings over the last 28 days.
But the most important stats are wins and losses. Leading after seven innings, the A’s are 35-0. Leading after eight innings? They’re a ridiculous 42-0.
“With the seasons Treinen and Trivino are having, they’re winning the games they’re supposed to win when they have the lead, and they have an offense that will grind you for 27 outs,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said after his team fell to Oakland 2-0 on Monday night. “That’s a good combination.”
The offense Hinch is referring to is one of the best in baseball, led by recently-named All-Star Jed Lowrie, who will be heading to the Midsummer Classic for the first time in his 11-year career.
If Mike Trout remains healthy, he’ll run away with the American League MVP award. J.D. Martinez is having a monster year for the Red Sox and will be in the MVP conversation, too, but if the A’s make the playoffs, Lowrie will be a big reason why, and that’s the very definition of most valuable player.
The 34-year-old second baseman leads all second baseman in homers (16), RBI (62), and slugging (.504). He’s second in doubles and third in batting average, OBP and hits. Defensively, he leads all major-league second basemen with a .993 fielding percentage.
The senior citizen of this club has been an absolute force.
“He’s playing his best baseball,” Melvin said. “Last year was probably his best year, and this year, he’s even better, so it’s a credit to him. It’s fun to watch.”
With the way the A’s have played recently, whispers coming from the front office are that Lowrie may be around for awhile, and not flipped for a prospect before the July 31 trading deadline. That’s something A’s fans want to hear.
Whether or not they make a move to bolster the starting rotation, the A’s as currently constructed should be able to remain in striking distance of the Mariners. They’ll have to improve their record within the AL West, where they’re a woeful 13-25.
But who knows how the A’s season will play out? Right now, they have the hottest team in baseball and deserve the attention they’ve recently garnered.
The Oakland Athletics have been one of the best stories in baseball.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.