The American League playoff race has been bland. Until recently, only five teams have established themselves as playoff contenders: the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros, the Seattle Mariners, and the Cleveland Indians. Then, the Oakland Athletics emerged. There has been one other AL team that has surprisingly risen in the Tampa Bay Rays. However, they are in a division comprised of the Yankees and Red Sox and may start selling soon.
Oakland, on the other hand, has won 15 of their last 19, making the chase for the final AL wild card spot interesting at least. The Athletics have not lost a game when they've entered the seventh inning with a lead all season, thanks to a lights-out closer in Blake Treinen (23 saves, 0.96 WHIP, 0.98 ERA, 10.96 K/9). Other relievers like Lou Trivino (0.94 WHIP, 1.31 ERA, 10.23 K/9) and Yusmeiro Petit (1.07 WHIP, 3.36 ERA) have stepped in nicely for Oakland's bullpen.
It hasn't just been the bullpen that has been good, however. Hitters like Jed Lowrie, who deservedly got his first All-Star nod with a line of .290 BA, 16 homers, and 62 RBIs, and Khris Davis (21 homers, 63 RBIs) have powered Oakland's offense. Other players like Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien have contributed recently for the A's.
As flaming hot as the Athletics have been, the Mariners still hold a 5 1/2 game lead on them for the final wild card spot. However, Oakland does have ten games left against Seattle, so the A's have an opportunity to make up even more ground. Still, how the A's respond once the All Star break is over will be telling if they are buying or selling come the trade deadline.
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