On July 15th, the Oakland Athletics finished a sweep of the lowly Minnesota Twins. They had just finished a stretch in which they won nine out of 10 games and climbed from five games under .500 to three games above it in two weeks.
The A's, who traded away Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey before the season, were a rebuilding team that managed to win some games. It was a nice story, but they were also beating up teams like the Twins, Mariners and reeling Red Sox.
They faced a gauntlet for the next 25 games. And as I wrote in a previous Bleacher Report article, it was a potential season-killer. Every year it seems that there is a team out of nowhere that makes a run at a winning season and falls on their face when they have to play the big contenders.
Well, this 25-game stretch included games against the Rangers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Angels and White Sox. They would face every American League contender with the exception of the Tigers. There was the chance that they would be beaten, bruised and trading away whatever veterans they had left when it was all over.
They started the stretch 46-43. If they finished the run still above .500, that would be impressive. In other words, if they went 12-13, that would be "mission accomplished."
So how did they do? Try 15-10.
The Athletics not only held their own, they also established that they are indeed and amazingly true contenders for a playoff spot. The 25-game run included wild walk-off and come-from-behind victories. There were two 15-inning victories and another 12-inning win. It included a four-game sweep of the Yankees and beating the Angels two out of three.
Now comes a big push for the A's until Labor Day to pad their win total.
They will start a 19-game stretch tomorrow where only the Rays are contenders (sorry, my fellow Red Sox fans—our team is no longer a contender).
Three at Kansas City, three at home versus Cleveland and another three against Minnesota are next on the schedule. After a three-game trip to Tampa Bay, they go to Cleveland for four games and back home to face the minor league team that wears Red Sox uniforms.
Then the Angels arrive for a Labor Day series.
Currently the A's are half a game behind the Rays and Orioles for a wild-card spot. Baltimore is entering a similar stretch as the A's just finished, facing the Tigers, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees.
Tampa Bay will take on Texas and the Angels in that same period of time.
If the A's do not let down and can beat the teams they are supposed to beat over the next 19 games, they can go into Labor Day and the final few weeks of the season with a wild-card spot.
Did anyone see that happening when they dumped their young pitchers last offseason?