It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the magnitude of this impressive run the A’s currently find themselves on.
An early offensive explosion on Saturday night, highlighted by a three-run homer by Jed Lowrie in the fourth inning, carried the A’s to a 7-2 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards. Extending its win streak to 13, Oakland became the first team to win 13 in a row since 2017, when Cleveland won 22 straight that August, followed by a 13-game win streak by the D-backs in September.
The big focus will continue to be how close these #RideTheWave A’s can come to approaching the 2002 "Moneyball" A’s that reeled off 20 in a row. But Saturday’s win also brought them one game closer to matching the 1988 A’s, whose 14-game win streak that year is the second-longest since the club moved from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968.
Of course, this 2021 streak already comes with its own special distinction. They’ve done all this in the same month in which they posted a record of 1-7 to begin the year. Earlier this week, they became the first club in Major League history to start a season 0-6 and win 11 straight games at any point in that season.
“We knew as a team, especially after that first week, that we were way better than that,” A’s shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Big shoutout to the coaches and manager to not panic and just trust it would only take one game for us to get it going, and that’s what happened. Everybody started feeling better and relaxed.”
Chris Bassitt's performance against the Orioles fell in line with the dominance that has been carried to the mound by A’s starting pitchers on a near-daily basis over the past two weeks. Doing his best to work fast through impending rainfall in the Baltimore area that threatened the chances of getting a full game in, the right-hander worked six innings and allowed just two runs on eight hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.
“Bass actually got better as the game went along,” said manager Bob Melvin. “Looked like his command wasn’t great early on and after about the third he seemed to get better. I didn’t think, at one point, that he was going to end up giving me six innings, but he did.”
Over the course of the last 13 games, A’s starters have allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of them. Overall, the starters are a combined 8-0 with a 2.78 ERA over the streak. The bullpen has grabbed the baton passed on from those starters by continuing the excellence in the late innings.
In their last 10 games, A’s relievers are 3-0 with four saves and a 1.65 ERA across 32 2/3 innings. They’ve yet to blow a save opportunity, joining the Yankees as the only two teams in baseball in that category. On Saturday, Adam Kolarek, J.B. Wendelken and Deolis Guerra teamed up to close the game by allowing just two hits and no walks in the final three innings.
“The pitchers have been amazing,” Andrus said. “All the starters and the bullpen, I think they’re the big reason we started this winning streak. It’s a lot of fun. We’re just going day by day and seeing how long we can stretch this streak.”
Strong pitching is only one part of the equation. Perhaps just as impressive as the arms has been an A’s offense that continues to out-slug all opponents. Lowrie’s three-run blast off Tyler Wells was his third of the season, continuing what has been a resurgence at the plate for the 37-year-old second baseman, who was limited to just nine games over the past two years due to a knee injury.
The trio of Lowrie, Mark Canha and Matt Olson were responsible for all seven A’s runs on Saturday, combining to go 5-for-13 with a homer, two doubles and a walk.
“They’ve been fantastic,” Melvin said. “What Mark’s done in the leadoff spot is hard to do for a guy that’s used to hitting down in the lineup or the middle of the order. Jed, the story just keeps growing with him. And Oly is off to a great start and doing a lot of the things that he’s capable of.”
As for the capability of this ballclub, it’s way too early to make proclamations about how far these A’s can go. We’re not even out of the first month of the season yet -- but there’s clearly something special going on.
Andrus would know, having been a part of some strong Rangers clubs that reached back-to-back World Series in 2010 and ‘11. This current run the A’s are on has sparked flashbacks of the veteran shortstop's earlier days in Texas.
“It brings me a lot of good memories,” Andrus said. “Especially how close the group is in the clubhouse and how much we care for each other. It’s a really good thing to have early in the year, because you know once everyone gets it going, it’s only going to get better.”