By John Hickey
Saturday, July 13th, 2013 at 11:04 pm in 2013 regular season.
Sunday will be the final day before the All-Star break, the traditional end of the first half of the season.
And with the A’s playing the Red Sox, it will wind up having been an excellent first half for Oakland, win or lose.
Consider that a week ago the A’s were facing the toughest run-up to the break for anybody in the Major Leagues. Oakland had the fourth-best win total at the time, 52, and had to play two of the three teams with more wins, Pittsburgh (53) on the road and Boston (54) at home.
Five of the six games have been played, the A’s have won three of the five and they will find up doing no worse than splitting the six games. And given that Bartolo Colon is throwing Sunday, you have to like Oakland’s chances in the finale against the Sox.
How, exactly, has this team gotten here? Mostly it’s with pitching. In winning three of the last five, the A’s have not scored much, but they’ve gotten enough pitching for wins of 2-1 and 2-1 against the Pirates and 3-0 Saturday night against the Red Sox.
For a team that has been without its opening day starter virtually all season, the A’s have turned in some quality pitching. They lead the American League with a 3.65 ERA in large part because they also lead in fewest walks.
A.J. Griffin walked one in eight innings Saturday and Grant Balfour none in his one inning. Ten times in 94 games the A’s haven’t walked anyone. Twenty four times they’ve walked just one. And another 24 times they’ve limited the walks to two in a game. That’s over 60 percent of the time Oakland pitching has kept the walks to a more-than-manageable level.
And they’ve won almost two-thirds of those low-walk games, 37 of 58.
In winning three of the five against the Pirates and Red Sox this last week, the A’s have allowed a total of nine walks.
Small wonder they’ve been competitive in most every game.