The Oakland Athletics are the best team in the American League. At least, according to their 12-4 record they are. With an MLB-best 96 runs scored, they’ve proven to be quite difficult to beat this young season. Or that it’s certainly hard to contain them for very long.
Still, some might look at Oakland’s record with caution, considering the division-champion A’s have played—and beat—the Houston Astros six times already. Remember, this is an Astros squad that lost over 100 games in both 2012 and 2011, so the matchup appears to be a bit skewed in Oakland’s favor.
But, in sports, anything can happen on any given day. And even the Harvards beat the New Mexicos when they're "not supposed to." Good teams beat the opponents they should beat—that’s how they become great teams.
Which makes the Athletics’ upcoming series versus the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend a bit confounding and hard to predict. Specifically because many baseball experts believe the Rays to be a playoff-bound team.
Thirty-three ESPN.com MLB contributors prognosticated that the Rays would make the playoffs: 20 chose them to win the AL East; seven had them going to the World Series; two selected them to win it all.
However, so far this season, the Rays are not meeting expectations and are sitting alone at the bottom of their division with a 5-9 record. Tampa Bay is obviously a talented team—evidently, some would say a championship-caliber one.
This weekend’s bout with the Athletics was to be a great test for both squads, with two playoff teams from a season ago going head-to-head early in the season.
Can Tampa Bay rise up to the challenge and slow down the red-hot A’s? Can the Rays reach their potential? Or will the A’s continue their torrid streak, proving they deserve to be in the championship conversation?
Here are five things to look for in this weekend’s three-game set between the A’s and Rays.