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Start strong, stay healthy and get hot to finish.
To capture the three-peat, the A's must do several things. For instance, they must:
This is two-fold. First, they can't afford any more injuries. One more injury could be devastating. Imagine if Yoenis Cespedes goes down for the year, or Scott Kazmir misses three months. The A's are in a tough spot as is, but one more straw could potentially break the elephant's (in this case) back.
On top of avoiding injuries, they must beat the current injuries by overcoming.
Sure, that's easy to say. But Jesse Chavez has the potential to stay hot. And Tommy Milone deserves to be in the starting rotation. This is exactly why the A's have so much depth.
The Top of the Rotation Must Carry the Load
Expectations for Kazmir likely varied. That expectation may very well have been a hope that he'd pitch well once again. But now, with Parker sidelined, he must pitch even better than his 4.04 ERA in 2013. With his experience, he's the leader of the rotation now.
Then there's Sonny Gray.
Seeing him struggle might have been disappointing, but we should remember how young he is. Because of his age, struggles wouldn't have been all that damning. However, as the No. 1 guy, now is no time for a sophomore slump or nervous butterflies. Gray has a ton of pressure on him now. In order for the A's to have a legit shot at winning the West, he must persevere.
The Lineup Must Click Throughout the Season
2013 was an interesting year.
Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson hit all season. Yoenis Cespedes produced runs but didn't hit particularly well, at least not consistently. Josh Reddick just wasn't right for most of the year. The rest did enough to get the team a pennant, but no performances in particular (of Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Seth Smith) stood out.
If Oakland wishes to not only take a third AL West title, but also go further than the ALDS in playoffs, multiple guys have to hit at the same time.
Crisp has to be healthy. Lowrie has to maintain 2013 production. Donaldson must build on his year. Reddick has to return from wrist issues. Cespedes has to find his swing. And the rest cannot afford to have down years.
Any lineup can make it through one guy hitting poorly.
This lineup can't let it be one of their superstars, and can't let it happen at key moments (like down the stretch, against rivals and in playoffs).
Begin and Finish Strong
Looking at the schedule, April is a soft month. The A's have all of their AL West rivals in addition to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. There's no better opportunity to sprint out ahead of everyone else than April, against the direct competition.
August may be even easier.
Oakland battles the Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays, Twins, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros. Just like they can start the season strong, they can start the second half strong.
Then they have to drive it home in September.
That's when they'll play the Angels and Astros again, in addition to the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
Ride out the bumps early, maintain through the midway point and dominate in the late-goings with everyone healthy and hot.