(OAKLAND) -- The Oakland Athletics came into this early-season showdown with the American League West division rival Los Angeles Angels a little down, having lost six of their last eight games. But in usual fashion, these A's have responded to adversity well.
After a 9-5 triumph on Friday night and a 11-3 pounding on Saturday night, Oakland is going for the sweep today against Los Angeles, riding strong bats and solid (enough) pitching to big wins over their Southern California rivals -- and extending its AL West lead to 3.5 games currently in the standings.
With two straight wins for the first time in ten days, perhaps the A's are back on track, although they will get the best the Angels have to offer on Sunday in the form of Jered Weaver (6-3, 2.99). Oakland does counter with Sonny Gray (5-1, 2.31); thus, the potential for a real pitchers' duel is there today at the O.co Coliseum.
Game time is 1:05 p.m.
The A's will head out on a long road trip through New York (29-25), Baltimore (27-27) and Los Angeles (30-25) starting Tuesday, so they'd really like to get this win under their belts to hit the road in stride. Oakland was won 10 of its last 13 at home now as well, and the club also has the best road mark (18-10) of any team in the AL.
With a 34-22 record, the A's have the best mark in the AL and are off to their best 56-game start since 1991, when that team also had a 34-22 record at this juncture. However, that squad had a mere +16 run differential with that early record and finished its last 106 games with just 50 wins to finish in fourth place (after winning the division three straight seasons, 1988-1990).
Since run differential is statistically the best predictor of future performance, the current Oakland team's +112 mark is a very good sign this team will not be fading like the 1991 squad did. And for comparison's sake, the next best MLB team right now in run differential is at a mere +51. These A's can be that good.
And it has showed this weekend, as the Angels came into this series with 13 wins in their last 19 games, but Oakland has just flattened L.A. twice. On Friday night, the home team scored five runs in the first and led 7-0 after three innings on its way to the emphatic win. Drew Pomeranz wasn't sharp, giving up five runs in 5.1 innings, but on this night, it didn't matter.
Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss each drove in four runs for the A's, as Donaldson's two home runs off Angels reliever Wade LeBlanc complemented Moss' first-inning grand slam off L.A. starter Garrett Richards.
On Saturday, Oakland fell behind 3-0 in the fourth inning, and the Angels had nine hits at that point to the A's zero. If it hadn't been for Yoenis Cespedes throwing out two runners at the plate in the second inning, it could have been much worse for Oakland pitcher Tommy Milone.
But the A's later exploded for ten runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined, with Cespedes stroking a two-run triple in the seventh to bust the game wide open and adding a three-run homer in the eighth to make this little American game all his own for one night.
With Oakland experiencing some injuries to key members of its offense right now (Coco Crisp and Moss both didn't start on Saturday night), it's always someone different stepping up to key the big innings on this team -- that's how you get a huge run differential like the A's have right now.
Opponents might shut down one guy on any given night, but Oakland has a lot of hungry guys in their lineup: Jered Weaver, beware.