(OAKLAND) -- The Oakland Athletics got swept earlier this season in Toronto, and they look to return the favor today at the O.co Coliseum against the Blue Jays, armed with a new mound presence: Jeff Samardzija.
The A's acquired the former Chicago Cubs starter on Friday in a blockbuster trade, sending two former No. 1 picks and pitcher Dan Straily to the Friendly Confines, in exchange for Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Overnight, Oakland rebuilt its rotation with the intention to win in October this year.
The Coliseum crowd will get their first look at the new guys today in Oakland, as the starter nicknamed "The Shark" takes the hill for the A's against the Blue Jays and Drew Hutchinson (6-6, 3.81). Samardzija was just 2-7 with the Cubbies this year, but his 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts are testaments to his abilities.
Game time today is 1:05 p.m.
Oakland will be looking to complete a four-game sweep, of course, after winning a 1-0 squeaker in 12 innings on Friday and emerging victorious on Saturday, as well. On this holiday weekend celebration of American independence, it would only be proper for the A's to represent their nation well.
And with Samardzija and Hammel in the fold now, Oakland also has assumed the role of "favorite" for the October postseason, which is still so far away. Yes, the A's have the best record in the major leagues (54-33), and yes, the team with the best record during the regular season rarely wins the World Series.
But the Oakland organization is going for it now, after coming up just short in the last two playoff series in 2012 and 2013. The team is already doing just fine, so this is a case of both improving the team while also preventing other teams from acquiring the two SPs as difference makers.
The A's, who were swept earlier this week in Detroit, continue to show their fortitude by never staying down for long: with the extra-innings win on the Fourth of July matinee here, Oakland showed they're a tough out at home, if not everywhere.
They scored the winning run with one out in the 12th Friday, when utility infielder Nick Punto laced a double into the left field corner, and the Blue Jays' leftfielder—former S.F. Giant and confirmed PED user Melky Cabrera—misplayed the ball. This allowed the A's catcher, Derek Norris, to scoot around from first base to score the game's only run.
Yesterday, it was Scott Kazmir's turn to shut down the Blue Jays offense, as the lefty threw seven innings of one-run ball while striking out eight batters to win his tenth game of the season. Four different A's drove in a run apiece as Oakland won the game, 5-1.
The A's rotation has the best ERA in the American League (3.28), and it's getting better now. And did we mention the Oakland club also scored the most runs in the majors this year? With their surplus of starting pitchers now, look for the team to move someone like Jeff Francis or Brad Mills for more offense at second base.
In a few weeks, the A's will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of their last World Series championship. With a little luck, the team might be able to hoist a new trophy this October, too.