OAKLAND -- To continue their surprise ascension to one of baseball's best teams this season, the A's will need their starting rotation to take the load off an elite bullpen. In a three-game series sweep against the Tigers, Oakland got exactly that, from names that sound like a blast from
OAKLAND -- To continue their surprise ascension to one of baseball's best teams this season, the A's will need their starting rotation to take the load off an elite bullpen. In a three-game series sweep against the Tigers, Oakland got exactly that, from names that sound like a blast from the past: Brett Anderson, Edwin Jackson and Trevor Cahill.
Cahill recorded 10 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over the Tigers on Sunday at the Coliseum, as the A's claimed their sixth straight victory, swept their second straight series and extended baseball's best record since June 16 (33-10).
"We're confident with each other," Cahill said. "I feel confident when every one of our starters goes out there, I feel like we're going to win. That's all you can ask for."
With the Mariners' win over the Blue Jays and the Astros' loss to the Dodgers, the A's pulled within four games of Houston for the AL West lead and maintain their 2 1/2-game cushion on Seattle for the second Wild Card spot. They are also within 2 1/2 games of the Yankees for the first Wild Card position, with the Yankees losing to the Red Sox on Sunday night.
The A's swept the season series against the Tigers (7-0), going undefeated in a season series of seven or more games for the fourth time in franchise history and second time this season.
"It's tough to sweep a team seven games over the season," manager Bob Melvin said. "We've done that twice with Toronto and Detroit. We're on a nice roll right now. The more games you win, the more confidence you have. It seems to be playing out right now."
The A's have not allowed an earned run over the last 32 innings -- the Tigers managed just one unearned run over three games -- while starting pitchers finished the six-game homestand with a 5-0 record and a 0.73 ERA.
Cahill allowed three hits and claimed his third straight win, lowering his ERA at home this season to 1.00. After throwing 29 pitches in the first inning and escaping a bases-loaded jam unscathed, Cahill settled down, retiring 16 of his last 18 batters.
It helps to have a bullpen that the A's possess -- one that got stronger with the acquisition of Shawn Kelley from the Nationals earlier on Sunday -- along with an offense that can get hot at any moment. It gives the starters confidence knowing they have backup.
"As a group, we're not trying to be the weak link," Cahill said. "We know the bullpen is a strength. We know the guys can score, so it helps us out. Gives us confidence to go out there, trust our stuff. We have an offense that can pick us up if we do make a mistake. If we do get a jam, our bullpen is really good, obviously. Those two things definitely help us out."
As it did on Saturday, the A's offense came in the form of loud bursts. Khris Davis put the A's ahead with his 31st homer of the season in the fourth inning. Later in the frame, Oakland strung together three straight hits, with Ramon Laureano singling in Matt Olson. Matt Chapman and Olson hit two-run homers in the later frames to give the A's insurance that they didn't need -- not with the pitching in this homestand.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The A's blew the game open late with the long ball, but it was Davis who gave the A's offense -- which had been relatively quiet this series -- a jolt with his leadoff homer in the fourth. It was a ball that kept carrying to right-center and just cleared the wall. Davis is second in the league with 86 RBIs and passed Angels center fielder Michael Trout to rank third in home runs (31).
"When he first hit it, I didn't think that ball was going out," Melvin said. "He definitely does not have to square it up to hit a home run. I've seen a bunch of his homers and it's still surprising."
Laureano went 3-for-4, capping off an eventful debut series for the center fielder. After recording the game-winning hit in his first Major League game on Friday and making stellar defensive plays in the outfield all series long, Laureano singled three times on Sunday for his first career multi-hit game. He also stole second base in the seventh for his first career steal.
"He's been great," Melvin said. "The speed dynamic, too. First step in the outfield look up he's already got a beat on it. He's made some great plays. It's great for him to get off to a good start, because it makes you confident at the big league level. … Just another guy in our system that really has a chance to help us."
HE SAID IT
"I don't pay attention to numbers." -- Davis, on the A's being 33-10 over their last 43 games
The A's will have a day off Monday before wrapping up an eight-game homestand with a two-game set against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday. Sean Manaea, who is 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 11 starts since the beginning of June and is fresh off his team-leading 10th win of the season on Wednesday, will take the mound for the A's. The Dodgers will counter with Rich Hill. First pitch is set for 7:05 pm PT at the Coliseum.
Eric He is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.