ARLINGTON, Texas — The A’s are playing their best baseball of the season, and that’s not making the decision-making any easier for their front office over the next five days.
Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline is approaching, and what seemed like a no-brainer approach (sell, sell, sell) doesn’t seem so clear-cut suddenly.
The A’s have won five of their past six, and their 9-4 record is the best in the American League since the All-Star break. Another late-game power surge sparked them to a 6-4 victory over Texas on Wednesday, marking the first time the A’s have won four series in a row since May 2014.
Last year the A’s struck early in the trading frenzy, dealing lefty Scott Kazmir on July 23 and reliever Tyler Clippard and utility man Ben Zobrist shortly after. With five days left before this summer’s deadline, which was pushed back a day to Aug. 1, all is quiet on Oakland’s trade front.
“We haven’t moved anybody,” manager Bob Melvin noted. “I know there’s some time left, but we haven’t moved anybody. We’re playing better baseball and it certainly gives pause for thought.”
Time for some perspective. The A’s, at 47-55, are 11 games off the pace in the American League West. They moved to within 9 1/2 back of the second Wild Card spot, but have six teams to leapfrog. It will take a sustained level of excellence for multiple weeks, not to mention help from the teams above them, for the A’s to become serious postseason challengers.
But there’s also no denying that the fourth-place A’s, so maddeningly inconsistent in the first half, are playing as steady as they have all season.
“There’s a loose, relaxedness in the clubhouse before games,” outfielder/DH Khris Davis said. “It’s a good chemistry right now. Winning creates that though.”
And a big part of the A’s winning right now revolves around their recently discovered power in the late innings. They’ve homered 10 times in the past five games. Five of them have come in the eighth or ninth inning and keyed victories.
Coco Crisp hit a two-run homer off Matt Bush in the eighth Wednesday that put the A’s ahead 4-3, and then Davis went deep for the second time in the game with his own two-run shot.
After a rough April with his new team, Davis has become every bit the consistent power source Oakland could have hoped for, and more. His 25 homers put him in a four-way tie for fourth in the league, and he’s tied for seventh with 67 RBI. Davis displayed his foul pole-to-foul pole strength Wednesday, pulling a towering shot to left in the first off Yu Darvish, then driving a Matt Bush fastball down the right-field line in the eighth on his two-run shot. The 28-year-old seems assured of becoming just the A’s third 30-home run man in the past eight seasons.
And the havoc he’s wreaked on the Rangers this season is almost cartoonish. Davis is hitting .419 with seven homers and 19 RBI in nine games against Texas.
“It doesn’t matter what ballpark when he hits them out,” Melvin said. “That’s a ball down the (right field) line that a left-handed hitter hits. Not a lot of guys in the American League can do that.”
Crisp mentioned the improved starting pitching and defense of late as also boosting the A’s. Sean Manaea struck out a career-high nine with no walks Wednesday, and the A’s have strung together six errorless games in a row.
Before the game, Melvin talked of the injection of “youthful enthusiasm” the A’s have gotten since the All-Star break, when rookie third baseman Ryon Healy was called up and Jake Smolinski, 27, got a crack as the regular center fielder. Their energy has lifted the A’s and also lit a fire under older veterans who want to maintain their own playing time.
What will it all mean come Monday?
Lefty Rich Hill, who is hampered by a blister on his hand but tentatively penciled in to start Sunday, remains a hot trade candidate. All has been relatively quiet regarding another of the A’s veterans on the trade bubble, right fielder Josh Reddick.
Crisp was asked whether he wanted the A’s current roster to remain intact.
“Of course,” he replied. “You grow bonds with a group of guys and you hate to lose a key player to your ball club. But it is a business and that’s the way it goes. But to answer the question, I would love to see this team stay together.”