The Oakland A's are coming off a series win in Milwaukee, but should be disappointed about not getting a sweep. That's says a lot about a club that's suddenly become one of the hottest in baseball, despite its under-the-radar status.
The national media hasn't done much to advertise the A's run of success, and maybe they shouldn't because the team enters the weekend series against the White Sox in second place in the American League West. And because the calendar just turned to June, it's still too early to look at Wild Card standings. But if you did, you'd notice Oakland is currently at the top.
After Wednesday afternoon's 6-1 win over the Brewers, the A's have won 16 of 19 and chopped five games off the Rangers' lead in the division to just 1.5 games.
But the series in Milwaukee is viewed as a disappointment because of the way the team lost Game 2 of the set, giving up a three-run lead in the eighth inning when Sean Doolittle allowed multiple runs in his third-straight appearance.
Oakland's bullpen remains one of the best in the American League, but it will be key to get its top left-handed option back on track. Doolittle told reporters Wednesday that he looked at film and diagnosed a mechanical problem, while A's manager Bob Melvin said he would not change Doolittle's role because of his recent struggles.
Prior to his last three outings, Doolittle had an ERA of just 0.78, which has since been lifted to 3.20 thanks to the seven runs yielded in his last 2.1 innings. Doolittle spoke as if he has maintained his confidence and hopes to make his recent misfortune a small blip on his radar.
The White Sox return home after an epic final game in their series against Seattle. The two clubs held each other scoreless for the game's first 13 innings. Then Chicago scored five runs in the top of the 14th, only to allow the Mariners to tie the game back up in the bottom of the 14th on a Kyle Seager grand slam. The White Sox would score twice in the 16th and seal the 7-5 win.
Last weekend, the White Sox visited the A's and were swept, getting outscored 9-3 and shutout in two of the three games. The team had just a .184/.208/.214 slash line for the series, notching just three extra-base hits, none of which left the park.
And worse yet, Chicago has lost Jake Peavy for four-to-six weeks with a fractured rib. An MRI revealed the injury on Wednesday after he left his start Tuesday after just 2.1 innings. The veteran right-hander would have started the last game of the four-game set on Sunday. The team has yet to announce a replacement.
On Thursday, Dan Straily (3-2, 4.60 ERA) will look to stay hot against Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.86 ERA) in a rematch of last Saturday's game that the A's won, 4-3, in 10 innings. Josh Reddick worked a bases-loaded walk against Hector Santiago to score the winning run.
Straily went six innings in that game and got the no-decision, allowing one run on six hits. He struck out eight and didn't allow a walk. The right-hander has won his last two decisions and has allowed just a pair of runs over his last 19 innings. Hitters are batting .176 against Straily in that span.
Considering Straily's inconsistencies in the past, his recent surge is awfully encouraging for the A's. The team might be facing the loss of their ace Brett Anderson for the year if he needs surgery on the stress fracture in his foot.
Quintana also received a no-decision in that game last Saturday, but he wasn't nearly as effective as Straily. Quintana allowed three runs 10 hits in 5.1 frames before his bullpen gave up the game.
Friday night's game in Chicago will see another rematch when Chris Sale (5-3, 2.44 ERA) takes on Jarrod Parker (4-6, 4.90 ERA). The A's plated just one run against Sale in six innings, but it was enough as Parker was spectacular. Oakland's right-hander shut out the White Sox over 6.1, giving him a 1.98 ERA over his last four outings.
Over that same span, hitters have a .181/.230/.298 slash line against Parker, after opponents had a .321/.411/.545 line in his first eight starts of the season. It would appear Parker and Straily have been drinking from the same water cooler.
Saturday's contest will feature John Danks (0-2, 5.63 ERA) and Tommy Milone (6-5, 3.91 ERA). Danks began the season on the disabled list after suffering from inflammation in his surgically repaired left shoulder. The lefty required an operation to fix a capsule tear, rotator cuff and tendon debridement that ended his 2012 season on May 20.
He's made three starts in 2013, and is coming off a loss to the Mariners where he allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits over six innings. He struck out five and walked one.
Danks has been successful in his career against Oakland, making eight starts, going 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA. However, he'll be facing a drastically different team than before with Coco Crisp being the only member of the A's he's faced more than nine times. Crisp is 4-for-17 against him. Jed Lowrie has the second-most plate appearances against Danks, going hitless in six at-bats.
Milone is coming off one his best road outings of the season, when he yielded just two runs on five hits to the Brewers over seven innings, receiving 10 runs of support en route to the win. The start will be his fourth-straight away from Oakland, where he's been considerably better since coming to the A's prior to last season.
A.J. Griffin's (5-4, 3.67 ERA) opponent has yet to be determined. He bounced back in his last start after succumbing the lead to the Giants late on May 30. Against the Brewers, he gave up just four hits over seven innings before Doolittle surrendered the lead in the eighth inning.
The right-hander will be making his first career start against the White Sox and looking to stabilize his roller coaster season 2013.