Mark Kotsay, Athletics determined to build on encouraging July

Kotsay, A's determined to build on encouraging July originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Athletics wrapped up a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox with a 4-1 loss on Sunday, but it didn’t take away the shine from a month full of positives in an otherwise gloomy season.

Before the calendar flipped to July, the A’s had the worst record in the big leagues at 25-53. Oakland had endured a nine-game losing streak in May, only to one-up that slump the next month with a 10-game skid and 1-13 stretch in June.

In July, however, the A’s consistently found their winning formula for the first time. Oakland finished the month two games above .500 at 14-12 and didn’t lose more than two consecutive games.

Of the team’s 14 wins, 11 occurred when the pitching staff held opponents to three runs or less. That resurgent pitching staff was led by left-hander Cole Irvin, who posted five quality starts, a 4-1 record, 1.85 ERA, and 22 strikeouts compared to three walks in July.

James Kaprielian was right behind Irvin with three quality starts, a 1.93 ERA, and a .182 opponent batting average in five outings.

As a starting rotation, the A’s jumped from having the 25th-best ERA among big league teams in June to 11th in July (3.98). They also hurdled up from 29th to 15th by improving the team's FIP from 5.09 to 4.10 month-over-month.

And of course, the A’s highlight of the month was completing their first sweep of the season against the first-place Houston Astros.

“It was a good month, a winning month. Coming off last month, we obviously had a lot to improve on,” manager Mark Kotsay said after the A’s loss to Chicago on Sunday. "Proud of the guys for the way they played. We continued to be in ball games. As of late, we’ve had those opportunities to win games and done that. A good month, hopefully, we can build off this month and keep moving forward.”

Adam Oller strung together the longest outing of his career Sunday, allowing four runs on seven hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings Sunday. He had never lasted past the fifth inning in any of his previous six career starts. Oller also set a new career-high with six strikeouts.

"That's the best he's thrown the ball, I think," Kotsay said. "The fastball had some life on it; he had some strikeouts with it. Really, really pleased with the outing."

That's just another positive in July.

The A's have had Tuesday's 3 p.m. PT trade deadline circled on their calendar since trading away stars Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in the offseason.

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While it remains in question whether players like Frankie Montas, Ramón Laureano, and even Sean Murphy will be in Oakland by Tuesday night, Kotsay and company can waltz into the dog days of August with a bit of confidence.