Taking four of six games on the road from the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles constitutes a successful East Coast swing for the Oakland Athletics, as the team returns to the West Coast tomorrow to take on the Los Angeles Angels in another American League West showdown.
The A's just swept the Angels in Oakland last weekend (May 30 -- June 1) for the first time since 2004, and now Oakland will look to increase its division lead over L.A. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Currently, the A's have a five-game division lead on the Angels.
Today, Oakland beat Baltimore, 11-1, to complete the six-game adventure through AL East teams. The A's won two of three games against both the Yankees and the Orioles, outscoring the two teams 34-15 over the six games total. Oakland has now won seven of its last nine games, righting the ship after a four-game losing streak on their last road trip through AL East teams in Tampa and Toronto.
The pitching matchups in Los Angeles feature some different combinations than the previous three games in Oakland last weekend -- on Monday, it will be Jesse Chavez (5-3, 3.04) versus Garrett Richards (5-2, 3.25), and Tuesday, Drew Pomeranz (5-3, 2.20) faces Tyler Skaggs (4-4, 4.34). On Wednesday, the Angels send ace Jered Weaver (7-4, 3.31) to the mound to face A's lefty Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.68).
Coincidentally, this leaves the top trio of Oakland starters -- Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Chavez -- in line to face the Yankees at the O.co Coliseum next weekend.
But never underestimate the A's rivalry with the Angels. Ever since Los Angeles won the World Series in 2002 as a wild-card team -- Oakland won the division that season with its Moneyball squad -- so much about the AL West has been between these two California teams. The A's won the division again in 2003, 2006, 2012 and 2013, while the Angels emerged victorious in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Only a brief, two-year stay for the Texas Rangers atop the division in 2010 and 2011 has kept the California teams from owning this division thoroughly over the last decade-plus.
If the A's can sweep the Angels again, they'll be looking at an eight-game lead in the division; if L.A. can return the home-sweep favor, it will be looking at a two-game deficit still in the West. And with Seattle (currently 5.5 games behind Oakland) and Texas (7.5 back) have any say in the matter, an Angels sweep could make this a four-team race again.
So the Oakland club knows what is at stake, even as they continue driving up a historical run differential mark (+128 and counting right now, through 63 games -- on pace for +329 for the whole season). For perspective, the 1939 Yankees posted the best mark ever (967 runs scored, 556 runs allowed for a +411 differential).
The A's won't touch that, and they don't need to -- all they need to focus on right now is beating the Angels, again and again and again.