Oakland A's Have Opportunity to Prove Worth Versus New York Yankees

Robert Slye Jr.Contributor IApril 20, 2010

The A's very good start has left them sitting pretty atop the AL West standings with a 9-5 record. That's got to have the A's feeling good about their chances.

Breaking down the first four series of the season, the A's are now 4-3 vs. the Seattle Mariners, 2-1 vs. the Los Angeles Angels, and 3-1 vs. the Baltimore Orioles. Not bad.

The A's were able to capitalize on a Mariners team that was lacking starting pitcher Cliff Lee on the DL and had cleanup hitter Milton Bradley off to a slow start. The A's took advantage of an Angels team whose offense and defense were off to a slow start. Most importantly, the A's reaped the benefits of a 1-8 Orioles club that came limping into Oakland.

Are the A's good enough to contend in September and October? It's still a bit early to tell, but with the World Champion New York Yankees parading into town, we'll likely have a better answer to that question after the series wraps up on Thursday.

The A's, thus far, have largely been surviving off of a thriving pitching staff, stellar defensive plays, and an offense centered on aggressive baserunning and small ball. The A's have recorded just seven home runs to date.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees have hit 16 home runs.

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If current team stats are any indication, the A's should at the very least have a fighting chance. The A's have scored 62 runs, the Yankees, 69. The A's pitching staff has allowed 47 runs, the Yankees', 44. The Yankees have also played two fewer games, so, so far, they're on pace to allow more runs than the A's.

The A's have a chance in this series if their pitching staff keeps up what they've managed their first 14 games: Keep the opposing offense in check long enough for the A's bats to catch up. What are the odds of that?

Well, for starters, on Tuesday the A's are throwing Gio Gonzalez at the Yankees. We know that Gio is capable of controlling the Yankees' lineup. After a particularly rough outing in 2009 against the Minnesota Twins (11Er in 2 2/3 innings), the Yankees had to like their chances against Gonzalez.

However, Gonzalez rebounded and threw 6 2/3 innings allowing only one run against the Bronx Bombers. Let's hope that Gonzalez can harness that side of himself, and not think too much about his girlfriend who's in a San Diego hospital after a serious car accident.

In Game number two, the A's send out Ben Sheets who is fresh off his third and most promising outing: six scoreless innings against the Orioles. Sheets seems to get better every outing, and against the Yankees is a perfect time for him to outdo his last performance.

Lastly, in game three, the A's will respond to the Yankees' ace CC Sabathia by matching him with Dallas Braden. Thus far, Braden has been the ace of the A's staff by having three consistent and effective outings. Let's also not forget that over the years that Vallejo-native Sabathia, has had, at best, an inconsistent history against the A's. Sabathia fared well against the A's as a Yankee in 2009, but previously as a member of the Cleveland Indians, the A's found a way to get to him fairly consistently.

The Yankees lineup is, as always, pretty scary, but controlling them is not out of the question. I'm a fairly optimistic person, and odds of the A's winning at least two out of three is pretty good. If they manage that the A's fans should like their team a lot going forward. One win against the Yankees says the A's contention hopes are murky, but possible.

If the Yankees sweep the A's, there's a good chance the A's will be sellers at the trade deadline. With a good season however, the A's won't have to rush power prospects Michael Taylor and Chris Carter to Oakland and their promotions would be just as effective as trading for power bats.

Time for the A's youngsters to prove they can hang with the New York Yankees, just like the youngsters from the beginning of the last decade did.

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