COMMENTARY | The Oakland Athletics aren't clicking right now. In fact, the A's have been downright brutal at the plate yet are managing to win.
In the month of July, Oakland is hitting .211, 14 points worse than any other team in the majors. Furthermore, the A's have scored 60 runs in that span, ranking 28th, only ahead of the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins.
Yet, Oakland has an 11-7 mark in that time and has picked up three games on the Texas Rangers thanks to great pitching. In July, the A's have walked the fewest batters (36) while sporting a 2.60 ERA, only behind the surging Tampa Bay Rays.
The A's will look to get their hitting going this weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, who held them to seven runs in three games after the All-Star break. Los Angeles is desperate after flopping hard versus the Minnesota Twins, losing a series at home to fall 11 off the pace in the American League West.
C.J. Wilson (10-6, 3.15) vs. Dan Straily (6-3, 4.14)
Wilson was brilliant in his last outing against Oakland on July 20, pitching 8.1 innings of shutout baseball. The southpaw was locating all of his pitches, keeping the A's off-balanced throughout with eight strikeouts and only two free passes. In his last four starts, Wilson has allowed only two runs.
Straily has also thrown the ball well, albeit taking a loss against Wilson on the 20th. Straily didn't walk anyone against the Angels and gave up two runs in seven innings but was outdone. Over his previous nine starts, Straily has surrendered more than two earned runs only twice.
Williams was roughed up when he saw Oakland in his last appearance, getting drilled for six runs (four earned) in five innings. It's been a very tough stretch over the past four games for Williams, who has seen 21 earned runs against in his last 13 innings. During that span, Williams has nine walks and eight strikeouts.
Colon continued his amazing season in his win versus Los Angeles after the break, throwing a complete-game shutout. At 40 years old, Colon is having the time of his life despite the Biogenesis investigation hanging over his head. Only twice all year has Colon allowed more than three earned runs in a game.
Frankly, it's about time Mike Scioscia realized that Joe Blanton is finished as a starter in any league above Single-A. Garrett Richards now takes over, and he hasn't been much better. In his four starts this year, Richards was lit up for 16 earned runs in 26 innings. Against Oakland on April 30, Richards allowed seven earned in 5.2 frames for the loss.
Milone hasn't inspired much confidence in A's fans this season, but he did pitch better facing the Houston Astros, if that counts. Milone threw six solid innings with two earned runs charged in a no-decision. More important, the lefty battled through three errors behind him to keep Oakland in the game.
Hanson has pitched better in recent outings. In three of his last four starts, Hanson hasn't surrendered more than two earned runs with a 2-0 record in that time. After being hurt for a month with a forearm ailment, Hanson climbed back on the mound against the Twins on Tuesday and took a no-decision, throwing 5.1 frames with one run to his name.
The former 2007 first-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks threw beautifully in his start in Houston, but he was denied a win when Grant Balfour proved he was human. Parker went seven innings and only gave up two runs (one earned) to lower his ERA once more. His BAA is .233, the 9th-best mark in the American League.
Hitters to watch
Erick Aybar owns Parker with an 8-for-13 lifetime record against him. Aybar is also 5-for-11 versus Milone, so he could be smoking-hot on his trip to O.co Coliseum. Albert Pujols crushes Milone with a 7-for-14 line, including six doubles. Mark Trumbo is 4-for-8 facing Straily with a long ball.
Josh Donaldson is 5-for-13 with a pair of doubles when Williams is on the mound. Eric Sogard will also welcome the sight of Williams, who his has four hits on in five at-bats, including a rare home run. Yoenis Cespedes is 4-for-11 against Wilson with a .500 OBP.
With the Texas Rangers trailing Oakland by three games in the West, the A's need to take advantage of playing a team with a sub-.500 record. The Angels are a dangerous club with a potent offense, but their pitching is atrocious in this series sans Wilson.
Oakland is 30-15 at home this year, the best record in the American League. The A's begin a 10-game homestand now, finishing it versus the Rangers. This is a prime chance for Oakland to stretch its lead over Texas with a tough August schedule looming.
Matt Verderame is a lifelong Oakland A's follower and has been published in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin and also at SB Nation among other papers and websites. His twitter handle is @MattVerderame.
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