Rewind: Hot streak keeps A's ahead of AL West pack

Rewind: Hot streak keeps A's ahead of AL West pack
May 18, 2014, 4:30 pm
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The A's (28-16) closed business Sunday 3.5 games ahead of the Angels (24-19), 6.5 games ahead of Seattle (21-22), and 7.0 games ahead of Texas (21-23). (USATI)

Eventually the Oakland A’s will come off this cloud they’re on.

The runs will dry up. They’ll catch opponents who are on their own hot streak, and we’ll all look back on this current stretch and wonder how they made it look so easy.

The Major League Baseball season is a marathon of peaks and valleys, and right now it’s going about as good as it can get for the A’s (28-16). They’ve won nine of their last 10 after Sunday’s 13-3 demolition of Cleveland completed a three-game sweep.

As they take a breather Monday before continuing this nine-game trip, it’s worth looking at what the A’s torrid run means in the context of the American League West race.

The A’s are surging at a time when their perceived strongest competition, the Texas Rangers, are sinking. Texas has been absolutely blitzed by injuries to their starting rotation. Martin Perez will have Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season. Matt Harrison might also be sidelined all season with a back injury. They’re still without fellow starter Derek Holland, second baseman Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto. Now slugger Prince Fielder – their top acquisition last winter -- is battling a herniated disk in his neck.

A 6-2 victory Sunday over Toronto snapped the Rangers’ four-game losing streak, but they are still two games under .500, seven games back in the current standings. Will they overcome the injury misfortune and get it going in the right direction? No doubt that’s possible. But it’s also fair to say that the Rangers, in their current form, don’t appear nearly as strong as they did in 2012 and 2013.

There’s still three-fourths of the regular season to go, and lots can happen. But if Texas does not put it together, attention shifts to which A.L. West team(s) represent the biggest threat to the A’s.

The Los Angeles Angels (24-19) are in second place, 3½ games back of the A’s. Their biggest question in the offseason appeared to be their starting rotation, but 25-year-old right-hander Garrett Richards is coming into his own, bolstering a starting staff headlined by Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

The Angels rank fourth in the A.L. in runs and third in team OPS, and that’s with Josh Hamilton having been out since early April due to thumb surgery. Albert Pujols hit his 11th and 12th homers Sunday but neither him nor Mike Trout have truly caught fire yet, so there’s room for improvement for the Angels.

The Seattle Mariners are 21-22, 6½ games back. Like the Angels, Seattle’s rotation has performed better than expected early on. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Mariners will have staying power throughout the summer.

The A’s will simply try to keep winning series as they’re doing, letting the standings take care of themselves. Manager Bob Melvin believes one of his team’s strengths is the ability to “insulate” itself. In other words, worry only about its own play and not be affected by what’s happening elsewhere in the division.

That’s for the best. Right now, it’s impossible for anyone to predict how things will play out behind the A’s in the A.L. West. Chances are, Oakland will cool off at some point and another team will put some heat on them in the win/loss column.

It just might not be the team that everyone expected.

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