Every now and then, the A's get just close enough to the top of the AL West to spark a little ounce of hope in the biggest of fans. Coming into the finale of a four game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, the A's were seven games back of the Rangers. Even though seven games is quite a large lead, the Rangers are playing awful baseball (3-7) in their last ten games.
An intriguing twist to the game is the pitching matchup, which features Dallas Braden and Matt Garza, both owners of no-hitters this year. Braden has struggled mightily since his no-hitter on May 9. He lost five straight decisions and found himself battling an injury before finding his cure: two straight wins against the White Sox. Since his first win in over two months, Braden has lowered his ERA by .3. More importantly, he has given the A's a chance to win each game he's pitched.
Matt Garza has experienced similar post-no-no troubles, but the blame falls mostly on his teammates. Garza has pitched well since his no-hitter, but his teammates must think he doesn't need any run support after his handcuffing of the Tigers on July 26 and Garza has been the fall guy for weak offense.
In other notes, the A's are starting to evolve into the team Billy Beane envisioned at the start of the season, obviously minus a few guys gone to trades. Travis Buck is back roaming the outfield and Andrew Bailey has been activated off the disabled list. Brett Anderson has been back for a few starts now, and although Ben Sheets has yet to pitch effectively (and is on the disabled list), the starting rotation is arguably the best it's been in years.
But, once the A's wrap the series up this afternoon, they travel to Cleveland for a set against the Indians. And unfortunately, we all know what happens away from the Coliseum. Losses.