The criticism of the Oakland A's early season success was that it came against weak opposition, namely the Houston Astros. And that was a valid criticism before the series against the Texas Rangers from May 20th-22nd.
Heading into that three-game set in Arlington, Oakland was 23-22, largely on the strength of a 14-1 record against the Astros, the Los Angeles Angels and the Kansas City Royals. Those teams are a combined 34 games under the .500 mark.
After defeating the Rangers in two out of three games, the A's won their seventh, eighth and ninth straight games against Houston in 2013. That set up the current series against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
Winning the first two games was impressive, even with the fact that the Giants were 9-13 in road games entering the Oakland Coliseum. Considering San Francisco won four of six in 2012 and largely outplayed Oakland last year, this was a clear barometer at the one-third point of the season.
So even though the A's had earned a split of the season series (yes, the Bay Bridge series sadly consists of only four games this year), the real test would be going to AT&T Park. It has largely been a house of horrors for the A's the last few years. Since 2009, the A's are 1-11 in San Francisco and were outscored 56-28 in those games.
Well tonight (actually, last night now), the A's scored more runs at AT&T than in 2009, 2010 or 2011 combined. More impressively, the team bounced back three different times from Giants rallies— including another hotly disputed call that led to a run—to beat the Giants in their own park.
Who has been most responsible for the A's recent surge?
Tonight's win came against Tim Lincecum, who was beaten 6-2 by Bartolo Colon last year. This gives the team their first season series win in the Bay Bridge series since 2008 and pushes their win streak to six straight games. Overall, Oakland has won 11-of-12 and the early May slump appears to be a thing of the past.
Currently, the team is on pace for 93 wins, one short of their division-winning 94 from 2012. Of course, that team did not have the benefit of playing Houston 19 times. They also did not have the year-long pitching the 2013 version has. Still, with solid starts by Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily over the last two weeks, the team is showing how complete it can be when all facets are working.
Win or lose, the A's have bragging rights in the Bay Area. That is, unless these teams meet again in October. And wouldn't that be something? Until then, 2013 belongs to the A's, who are clearly hitting their stride as the weather begins to really heat up.