By Steve Silverman
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Dog days. The Yankees are in them right now as they face the hard-charging Oakland A’s.
Two games and two losses may bring some angst to the pinstripers, but that’s just how it goes in the midst of the 162-game marathon.
This series is not about the Yankees. No, it’s about an Oakland team that his trying to assert itself in the wild-card race or maybe even make a move on the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.
The A’s are one of the surprise teams in baseball this year, along with the Chicago White Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates. None of those teams were expected to do anything this season except lose on more games than they more than they win, but they have all managed to exceed expectations.
While the White Sox have the wherewithal to compete in a less-than-stellar A.L. Central, the A’s and Pirates seemed to be following a familiar script at the start of the season. Neither team had the kind of capital that allows them to go after top players in free agency or trades because they simply can’t afford to pay them.
When you don’t have the best players on your roster, you’re not going to win over the long haul. Teams can get hot for three weeks or even a month, but if you don’t have the pitching, clutch hitting and defense you are not going to compete.
That’s why a series in the latter portion of July doesn’t necessarily mean very much. The Yankees are well out in front in the A.L. East and nobody is going to catch them. The Orioles are going the wrong way and the Rays are too beat up and don’t have enough hitting. The Red Sox and Blue Jays have hope and little else.
But the A’s have some nice moving parts and they are playing inspired baseball. That’s why they can take the full brunt of Robinson Cano’s ninth-inning, game-tying home run and bounce back with a game-winning RBI single by Brandon Moss off Cody Eppley that gave the A’s the first two games of the series.
The A’s have 10 walk-off wins this season and that has made them exciting and viable this year. They are 12-2 in July and 27-14 since early June.
They are a team that is out there competing and executing for nine innings, not knowing or caring what others think about them. They have no problems with the low expectations of outsiders. They care about coming through in the bottom of the 9th or later because that’s when it has been winning time for them.
The top of the lineup is what has given this team a lift. The speed of Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks puts the pressure on opponents. The Yankees held that pair to one hit, but they combined for five hits the night before.
Josh Reddick and Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes are the difference makers in the middle. Reddick showed flashes last year with the Red Sox but he lacked consistency. He’s already smashed 21 homers and driven in 46 runs this season.
Cespedes was highly touted when he signed with the A’s as a free agent and is coming into his own after an uneven start. Cespedes is hitting .304 with 12 homers and 44 RBI. His quick, powerful stroke means even more production is on the horizon.
But the dog days of July often provide illusions. Yankee fans may be troubled by a team that is getting outworked and outhustled for two games. In the grand scheme, it really means little because they are far better than their opponents.
However, the scamps from the West Coast have not gotten that memo. They don’t worry about who they are playing and their pedigree. They will go out and fight for as long as they can.
The baseball Gods will probably give them 2-to-3 more weeks. Then the reality of the season will take hold and push the upstarts to the back of the room.
What baseball fans see during the dog days of the season often has nothing to do with what happens in October.
Are the Oakland A’s a threat to the Yankees? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below. Send your tweets to @ProFootballBoy.