By Steve Silverman
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If the Yankees find a way to hang on in the American League East, they may have the Oakland A’s to thank for it.
The A’s have been a sensationally hot team over the last four weeks, running off a 23-6 record going into their Sunday afternoon game against the Baltimore Orioles.
The have beaten the Orioles in the first two games of their series and have allowed the Yankees to breathe again as they woke up Sunday with one-game lead in the American League East.
The Oakland A’s may be the most anonymous franchise in baseball, but these guys have proven they can play well and bounce back from adversity. In the middle of their hot streak, the A’s dropped three straight to the Angels and it looked like their bubble was about to burst.
That did not happen. The A’s just got right back on the horse and have reeled off eight victories in their last nine games.
Not only are the A’s doing the Yankees a big favor by bringing the red-hot Orioles back to earth, they are creeping up on the Texas Rangers.
If the Yankees hadn’t struggled down the stretch, Joe Girardi would have been trying to figure out how his aging team was going to win in the playoffs. By any means, a playoff-bound Yankees team would have problems with teams like the Chicago White Sox or Detroit Tigers, but ultimately it would come down to a meeting with the Rangers if the Yankees were going to get back to the World Series.
Except the A’s may have something to say about it. They may not have a big payroll or big-name players, but they are only two games behind the Rangers.
They have pitching and they are hitting home runs. They are simply rolling and they appear to get better each time they take the field.
They have that magical factor that some of baseball’s most memorable championship teams have had in the past.
Of course, no team ever had it more than the 1969 New York Mets. The miraculous ones chased down the Chicago Cubs, won the National League East in the first year of divisional play and then beat a powerful Atlanta Braves team for the National League championship.
The Mets never got satisfied with themselves and never worried about any opponent’s reputation. The beat the Baltimore Orioles in five games in the World Series.
There was no doubt about how good that Orioles team was since they won three pennants in a row and had incredible players like Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer.
Over the years, baseball historians have given the ’69 Mets their due and have recognized them as an excellent team with dominant pitching and not just a fluke. The 1990 Cincinnati Reds followed in the ’69 Mets footsteps, winning the World Series in a four-game sweep over the A’s.
The Marlins have won two World Series (1997 and 2003) as underdogs, and so have the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Could this year’s Oakland team be on their way to another World Series shocker?
Unlikely heroes like Josh Reddick (28 homers), Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith and Johnny Gomes are getting it done for the A’s on a an every-day basis.
Manager Bob Melvin has the A’s in a sensational position to win a Wild Card spot and potentially steal the A.L. West title from the Rangers.
They have come from out of nowhere and show no signs of slowing down.
With the onset of the football season, few are paying attention at this point outside of the Bay Area, but they are clearly doing the wheezing Yankees a big favor.
Their story may include several more key chapters.
Do you think the Yankees will need other teams to help them in order to win the AL East? Let us know below in the comments section.