False Start or Jump Start?

In the last five seasons, the A's have stumbled through the first month of the season or barely played better than .500 ball in April. The biggest reason, most within the A's insist, is because the American League West is so competitive and the schedule dictates they play the first 18 games within the division.<br><br> That could change in 2005.

The A's open the season with a road trip to Baltimore and Tampa Bay, marking the first time since 1995 the A's are beginning the season on the East Coast. It's just the second time in eight seasons the A's begin the year away from the Coliseum. In total, the A's will travel a league-high 52,000 miles next season.

The home opener is scheduled for April 11 against Toronto, and the first game within the division is four days later. Division games are more evenly divided throughout each month of the season rather than big clumps in April and September and smaller stretches in June and July.

The result is different times of the year for interleague games. For the last four years, the A's and crossbay-rival Giants have played home-and-home series on consecutive weekends. This year, the A's will go to SBC Park on May 20-22, then face the Giants in Oakland on June 24-26.

Other interleague games include a trip to RFK Stadium to play the relocated Expos and the Athletics' first trip to Turner Field in Atlanta. The A's will be home against the Mets and Philadelphia in the middle of June.

The A's can expect an attendance boost, just based on the schedule. The biggest drawing cards in baseball, Boston and the Yankees, came to Oakland once apiece a year ago. In 2005, the Yankees will come to Oakland twice. Boston, however, will visit the Coliseum only once, breaking a trend of having the A's alternate years with having Boston come to Oakland for six games.

Right now, Oakland's most difficult month looks to be May, when the A's play a 15-game stretch against the Red Sox, Yankees and Giants -- nine of which will be on the road. Last year, the A's went 1-8 against Boston and 2-7 against the Yankees.

Should the season come down to the final weekend, as it did last year, the A's will need to win in Seattle.

Some highlights in the home schedule include:

Anaheim's first visit to Oakland (April 15-17)
East Coast Invasion: New York and Boston come to town May 12-18
Bay Bridge Series comes to Oakland: June 24-26
Miggy returns: August 15-17
Yankees come to town, part two: September 2-4
Final Homestand (Texas and Anaheim): September 23-29

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