Don’t dismiss the Oakland Athletics hot start, this team is built to last

The Oakland Athletics are no fluke and have emerged as favorites in the American League West.

The 60-game season is a quarter-way complete, and the Oakland A’s stand atop of the MLB standings. Oakland just came off a nine-game winning streak, the longest winning streak this season. Plus, they swept their AL West division rivals in a three-game series last weekend.

The A’s have made it clear they are legitimate playoff contenders. But, they’re in the American League West as both the Astros and Los Angeles Angels still figure into the equation.

It’s easy to make a case for both teams in 2020. Like the A’s, the Halos have three MVP contenders with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani. There’s upside in the rotation, but that’s where things begin to fall apart. Julio Teheran and Dylan aren’t enough to save one of the worst pitching rotations from 2019.

An injury pushed back the start of Rendon’s season, and Ohtani’s elbow injury ended his season as a pitcher. There are expectations, but the Angels will have to pull out everything they can to bounce back from the worst starts in franchise history.

The Astros are coming off a nightmare of an offseason. First, they watched Gerrit Cole sign a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees. Then, the biggest scandal in baseball happened since the steroid area. There’s a dark cloud over the organization.

However, the Astros boast the 2019 AL CY Young winner, Justin Verlander, and MVP runner-up Alex Bergman. Yet, who knows if Verlander will pitch again this season. Bergman’s bat has cooled off, who might be impacted by the trash can banging scheme.

Still, the division is up for the grabs, but this time, it’s the A’s time to shine

FanGraphs gives the A’s a 69.9 percent chance to win the AL West. Oakland has been one of the best teams in the American League this year. By being a really good team, some factors stand out with their success on the field.

The club’s Opening Day starter, Frankie Montas, came into the year with something to prove. Last year’s breakout season came to an abrupt halt by an 80-game suspension. His 2.70 ERA in 15 starts in 2019 was no fluke, so far this season, Montas is slowly morphing into a dependable ace.

Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers have struggled right out of the gate. Jesus Luzardo recently joined the rotation after starting in the bullpen. AJ Puk’s shoulder injury forced the A’s to put Chirs Bassett back in the rotation. The right-hander has been fantastic, allowing two earned runs through three starts.

The core of the team has long been impressive. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are arguable the best corner duos in all of baseball. Marcus Semien, who finished third in AL MVP voting last season, is still trying to find his form.

The rest of the team, it’s a squad full of young players who are happy to explore their expanding and developing talents. Jesus Luzardo is only 22-years old and is the most talented player on the team. Ramon Laurenzo is the MVP and the most exciting player to watch.

With all that offense on the field, the A’s aren’t getting much offense. However, Oakland is hitting .225/.360/.428 in the seventh inning or later. That includes scoring two runs in the bottom of the 13th in a come-from-behind victory on July 31.

The A’s starters and bullpen have a 3.27 ERA, good enough for third in the league. They trail the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians. Their consistency to come back to win games is thanks to the middle of their bullpen. Currently, the bullpen has a 2.25 ERA, which also is third in the league.

Liam Hendricks remains the A’s closer while veteran Joakim Soria has served as the primary setup man. Aside from Hendricks and Soria, there are other arms in the A’s bullpen that include Jake Diekman, T.J. McFarland, Yusmeiro Petit, Burch Smith, and J.B. Wendelken.

It’s no surprise that Petit has pitch consistently well the last half-decade or so. Diekman learning a new slider has vastly paid off while McFarland and Wendelken have done stellar work in the past.

History says the A’s are a second-half team, but that should mean otherwise this season. With the Astros and Angels banged up, the A’s are the team to beat in the AL West.

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