They are also six games ahead of the Texas Rangers for the American League West. In other words, things are good for the green and gold.
With the Toronto Blue Jays coming to town, this isn't a time for Oakland to relax. This is the first series between the two teams this season and for those who aren't aware, the Jays can mash. Only the Baltimore Orioles have hit more homers than Toronto's 131.
For the Blue Jays, the summer is nothing more than a long road to oblivion. For Oakland, it's a crucial stretch as it turns for the postseason.
Esmil Rogers (3-4, 3.74) vs. A.J. Griffin (9-7, 3.84)
Rogers has been solid for Toronto, despite not having the fortune of a win since May 18. The 27-year-old has pitched at least into the sixth inning in each of his past eight starts. Rogers has been excellent on the road, sporting a 3.10 ERA compared to a 4.33 mark at Rogers Centre.
Griffin continues to give up home runs as though it's his game plan. The man with flowing locks has surrendered 23 bombs, including a whopping five in his two post-All-Star break appearances. That total puts him third in baseball, only behind Joe Blanton and Dickey.
Mark Buehrle (6-7, 4.50) vs. Dan Straily (6-4, 4.43)
Buehrle has had a brutal year, but he enjoyed his best start of the season last time out against the woeful Houston Astros. The southpaw was dominant, pitching a two-hit, complete-game shutout. Unlike Rogers, Buehrle has been a mess in America this year, compiling a gruesome 6.44 ERA with a .300 opponents average.
Straily appeared to be headed in the right direction following a trio of fine starts, but he fell apart July 25 against Los Angeles. The youngster couldn't escape the fifth inning, giving up five earned runs in defeat. Straily has proven tough to reach base against, with only a .298 OBP for the opposition.
R.A. Dickey (8-11, 4.86) vs. Bartolo Colon (14-3, 2.54)
Things have hit he rocks for Dickey after a Cinderella season in which he went from journeyman knuckleballer to National League Cy Young Award winner. Dickey has been hammered in his past two starts, allowing nine earned runs and four homers in 12 innings. Against lefties, the Tennessee native has served up 17 gopher balls.
Opposing Dickey will be another former Cy Young winner. Colon is still pitching like an ace, albeit under the Biogenesis cloud of suspicion. The 40-year-old has been amazing, ranking first among American League pitchers in complete games (3), eighth in WHIP (1.09), third in ERA (2.54) and seventh in IP (141.2). Incredibly, Colon is in the conversation for some more hardware.
Hitters to watch
Melky Cabrera had worn out Colon with five hits in eight at-bats, including a double and triple. Jose Bautista also has had success against the Dominican with a .429 OBP and a home run in 14 plate appearances. Colby Rasmus has been crushing the ball in July with a .375 mark, while Edwin Encarnacion has left the yard five times.
Coco Crisp is welcoming the site of Buehrle, with 16 knocks and three homers in 49 ABs. Derek Norris has been warming up with the weather, smashing four long balls and hitting .333 this month. Eric Sogard is cruising lately, going 11 of his last 27 to raise his average 13 points in eight games.
This is the classic spot for a letdown from Oakland. Facing an under-.500 team and knowing the Rangers are coming in for a showdown next, the A's have to guard against looking ahead. Toronto is a dangerous team, evidenced by its 11-game winning streak earlier in the year.
Leading Texas by six games, Oakland still has work to do. The A's haven't salted away the division by any means yet and are still chasing the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox for the best record in the AL.
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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- Mark Buehrle
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