The Oakland A’s enter the All-Star break with a 59-36 record, the best in all of MLB. With last week’s blockbuster trade behind them, the Athletics look to be the favorites to get to the World Series. With back-to-back exits in the Divisional Series in 2012 and 2013, the club won’t be taking much for granted in the second half of the season, particularly with the Angels remaining on their coattails only 1.5 games behind the A’s.
The Athletics will host the Baltimore Orioles coming out of the break. The Orioles lead the AL East by 3.5 games over the Blue Jays and are 4 ahead of the Yankees going into Sunday Night Baseball. A weekend series back in early June between the A’s and O’s turned feisty, largely due to immaturity on the part of Manny Machado.
Machado initiated a verbal disagreement with Josh Donaldson when the A’s third baseman tagged Machado “too hard” in game one of the series. The situation got no better as the series went through the weekend as Machado wildly swung at a pitch and hit A’s catcher, Derek Norris, in the head. Later in the same game, after the A’s decided to send a little message to Manny at the plate, he threw his bat at a pitch and it wound up past the third baseman. All of this led to a five game suspension shortly thereafter for Machado.
So aside from two of the top teams in the American League kicking off the second half of the season, there are a few, additional storylines to keep an eye on while these teams match-up in Oakland next weekend. While the A’s have announced their rotation to start the second half (Samardzija, Hammel, Gray, Kazmir, and Chavez respectively), match-ups against the O’s haven’t been announced for next weekend’s series, but here are the start times for each:
Friday, 7/18 vs. Baltimore, 7:05pm
Saturday, 7/19 vs. Baltimore, 6:05pm
Sunday, 7/20 - Baltimore, 1:05pm
Predictions: With both teams at the top of their respective divisions, expect tempers to flare up again and look for the A’s to keep their composure to take two of three.
Who’s hot heading into the All-Star break?
There are two Athletics in the lineup that don’t want the All-Star break to start; Stephen Vogt and Jed Lowrie. Vogt has a 13 game hitting streak and has raised his average to .380 on the season. Lowrie is hitting over .400 over the past week and has finally gotten out of his slump at the plate.
Scott Kazmir has won his last two decisions to move his record to 11-3 on the season and has lowered his ERA to 2.38 going into the break. Not to be outdone is Sonny Gray, who has won his last three starts to improve his record to 10-3 on the season while lowering his ERA to 2.79. While the A’s lost his second start, Jeff Samardzija has filled in more than admirably in the rotation. He’s gone a combined 15 IP with 10 strikeouts, allowing 4 ER’s for an ERA of 2.40.
The middle of the A’s batting lineup have all hit a collective wall going into the break. Yoenis Cespedes enters the All-Star break in a slump at the plate (but not in the field!). Cespedes is batting under .100 over the past week with only 2 hits and 1 RBI. During this same stretch, Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson are both hitting just a shade over .200.
A’s Roster Movement
The A’s front office had to finalize a few roster moves due to the trade with the Cubs. The team designated LHP Brad Mills for assignment.
OF Nick Buss cleared waivers after being optioned and was sent to the A’s minor league affiliate in Sacramento. The A’s also claimed OF Kenny Wilson off of waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned him to Sacramento as well.
In Friday’s game in Seattle, Alberto Callaspo injured his right hamstring trying to beat out an infield hit in the 2nd inning. On Saturday the A’s placed Callaspo on the 15 day DL and recalled infielder Andy Parrino.
Finally, the A’s traded RP Jeff Francis and Cash to the Yankees for a player to be named later. After a little confusion on who was getting cash in the deal, the A’s corrected their announcement:
A's release a correction to previous statement. They've traded Francis and cash to the Yankees for a player to be named later. — via Twitter Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) July 11, 2014