The A's need to remain a step ahead of the Astros in their remaining games
The A's finished out their third sweep of the 2013 season against the predictably woeful Houston Astros this afternoon. That makes them nine for nine, so far, and pushes their record to 28-23 on the year.
While I have been one to write about the A's traditional second-half surges, I am also wise enough to know that this year is unique. In other words, leaning on past results is probably not a way to assess future results completely.
That is important to note, because Oakland faces an upcoming schedule that, like Mount Everest, increases in difficulty the closer it gets. The A's have teams like the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and road games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the very-good-at-home Milwaukee Brewers to finish the first half.
The relevance in this is that, unlike last year's interleague schedule, this year projects to be much more difficult, as outlined by TeamRankings. And it appears as though the Los Angeles Angels are overcoming their ghastly 2013 start, making victories all the more important.
Ultimately, that means all of the games that are expected to be won must be won. Currently, the A's have a 4.76 starters ERA, good for 24th in baseball. That is a precipitous drop-off from 2012 and one of the biggest reasons for the A's relative lack of success in many games. Against good teams, the A's have to get to their quality bullpen, and they have not done that in enough games this year.
How many games can the A's lose vs. Houston and make the playoffs?
For all of the good teams the A's play, there are still 10 games against a team that is not and will not be any good: the Houston Astros. Yes, the A's are 9-0 on the year against Houston. That means this team is 19-23 against the rest of baseball. If you factor in their 5-1 start against the then-struggling Angels, the A's would be 14-22.
What that means is that in what is still expected to be a tight race to the finish in both the American League West and wild-card positions, the A's have to win every game they are expected to. Considering the West was won on the final game of the 2012 season, it stands to reason that Oakland may very well need all of their 19 games against Houston to be wins.
This is especially true after the controversial loss in Cleveland on May 8. One game makes all the difference sometimes. In the case of the A's, it might be 19 in 2013. So far, they have been a perfect nine, if that makes sense.