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The Oakland A's Are on Fire

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Don't look now, but the Oakland Athletics are hard-charging once again.

With the sewage that's running through the O.co Coliseum getting more headlines than the contender which inhabits it, the A's look to march on and keep winning as the heat of summer intensifies.

Last season, Oakland went 94-68 to win the American League West by a single game over the Texas Rangers, a team coming off consecutive World Series appearances. It was thought of at the time as a cute story, the small-market team in a decrepit stadium rising out of oblivion.

Now, it's more than the magical carpet ride that expires at midnight. We're long past the time to look at this band of castoffs and misfits and claim this is a team due for failure. At 42-30, two games better than Texas and 10 better than the faltering Los Angeles Angels, the A's are proving last year was merely a preview.

Oakland is winning with names like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Nate Freiman and Jed Lowrie leading the charge for an offense ranking 6th in runs scored with 335.

Haven't heard of them? No worries, neither had many people in Oakland until recently. Of course, the team does have some larger names, including Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, but none of them light up a marquee.

As of June 18, the A's have won 22 of their last 30 games, including 3 of 4 over the San Francisco Giants, and a sweep of the New York Yankees in that span. Additionally, Oakland's pitching has come to the forefront after struggling early.

The rotation features 40-year-old Bartolo Colon -- a former Cy Young award winner -- who is 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Count him in for the All-Star game, maybe as the starter.

Behind him are young guns Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin, who have been the driving force behind 43 quality starts this season, 5th-most in the majors.

Combined with the nasty bullpen that enjoys the fire-balling of southpaw Sean Doolittle and right-handers Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour (the only American League closer yet to blow a save), the A's staff has the 8th-best ERA in baseball (3.68) and 7th-lowest batting average against (.244).

Every year, the teams who make the biggest splashes are expected to run away with the hardware come autumn. The Toronto Blue Jays went out and seemingly acquired everyone, reaping the benefits of a Miami Marlins fire sale to get Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson.

The team from Canada's largest market wasn't finished, trading for R.A. Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner. Yet for all of the prognosticators who picked Toronto to be in its first Fall Classic since 1993, the Blue Jays are 33-36, last in the AL East.

Even more embarrassing are the Angels. Los Angeles added Josh Hamilton to a lineup already featuring Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and find themselves fourth in the AL West. Hamilton has proved thus far to be a non-factor, flailing at pitches well out of the strike zone, representing the desperation of his own team with every at-bat.

Currently, Hamilton is hitting .217 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs on a $25 million salary. Crisp, Oakland's leadoff hitter who has missed 20 games due to a variety of injuries mixed with occasional rest, is batting .299 with 8 homers and 26 RBIs, making $7 million in 2013.

Hamilton's slugging percentage is .395. Crisp's? .495.

With the dog days rapidly approaching, teams will certainly begin to fall out of the race. Some will do so gradually, while others will plummet back to earth, joining teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers who were so ballyhooed in the winter and spring thanks to a never-ending shower of green.

Then there will be the Oakland A's. With no money and little recognition, plugging along toward another playoff berth. How could anything else have been expected?

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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