After losing seven of 15 games following the All Star Break, the Oakland A’s have bounced back winning five of their last six, all while showing the signs of a true World Series contender.
A major factor in both the A’s struggles and turnaround is their offense. There is no question the struggles of Brandon Moss coincide with the loss of Yoenis Cespedes. Without Cespedes lingering behind him, Moss has been getting very few good pitches to hit and the numbers show it. Moss is hitting .080 with 11 strikeouts in August.
While key players like Brandon Moss continue to stumble, the A’s role players, specifically Eric Sogard, have stepped up to fill the void left by Moss. Sogard is hitting .429 in his last seven games, while being a key run producer for the A’s. In addition to scoring fours runs, Sogard has also knocked in three.
Unlike many teams, the A’s have the depth to afford them the luxury of letting their players work through their troubles and Sogard is the perfect example. He hit .186 prior to the All-Star break and saw his role with the club practically disappear, but Sogard has started six straight games after Nick Punto hit the DL and 14 of 21 since the break. Sogard made the necessary adjustments and is now making the most of the opportunity.
Obviously the A’s will not count on Sogard as a main run producer going forward but his performance as of late has been just what the club needs in order to sustain the lack of production from Moss in particular. Essentially, Sogard has given Moss the time and opportunity to make the necessary adjustments, without the team suffering too much. Now it is on Moss to do so.
Having confident and capable roles players is a sign of a true World Series contender. Star players inevitably go through slumps but it is the job of the role players to step their game up when necessary and vice versa. The A’s have shown they can do that.
The A’s revamped pitching staff has also been key in the turnaround. The A’s would not be in their current position without the early season services of both Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir but the pair has stumbled in August. Gray is 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA, while Kazmir is 1-1 with a 7.37 ERA. Fortunately, the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester have provided Gray and Kazmir room for error.
Lester has more than lived up to the bill so far going 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his two starts for Oakland this month. Samardzija has also pitched well in August. He is 1-0 in his two starts this month, allowing two runs or less in both starts.
With MLB’s five-man rotation it is unlikely all starters will be clicking at the same time. It was inevitable that Kazmir and Gray would hit a rough patch but the A’s now have a superior level of depth in their rotation, much like their offense, that allows them to overcome key player’s struggles, with minimal impact.
The Oakland A’s have shown with their depth that they can overcome adversity both offensively and defensively and that is a vital sign of a World Series team. Champions are forged not by how they respond to success but how they come back from their struggles.
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