It’s good to be back in first place

By: Malaika Bobino

Oakland, CA – Last season they were known for their walk-off wins.  This year, they’re just known for winning.  The Oakland A’s are once again making noise as they approach the end of the first half of the season, but this time it’s louder than before.

The A’s 8-7 victory over the Chicago Cubs was sparked by Derek Norris three-run blast in the eighth frame.  Norris also rallied the double play to secure their win.  Luis Valbuena led off the ninth with a walk, but was thrown out at second by Derek for stealing as Starlin Castro struck out.

“He does his best work late in games with runners in scoring position,” manager Bob Melvin said.  “He’s gotten big hits for us since he got here last year.  You get the big hits in bigger situations, those are the type of things that get you the respect of your teammates and gives us confidence that when he comes up in those situations, he’s going to come through.”

The win put Oakland back in first place of the American League West and a half a game ahead of the Texas Rangers.  The A’s have won four of their last five games improving to 49-35 for the season.  That is the second best record in the American League and sixth best in the Majors.

Oakland also has the fourth best interleague record in the majors at 10-3.  They beat two of the top teams (Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals) in the National League last week.  But for the A’s, those defeats are now in the past.  The team looks to continue their winning ways before the MBL All-Star break.  With the first half of the season coming to a close, Oakland has recorded their best record for wins since 2008.

“I feel like we started off with a better record this year than last year,” said A’s closer Grant Balfour.  “We’ve been through some adversity this year too, good and really bad.  I feel like we plateaued out and became a team that plays well together.  The starting rotation really just turned it around and has been great for us.”

Looking back to the start of the season, there were plenty of obstacles this team faced.  The pitching struggled and the injuries took a toll.  Over time, the pitching got better and so did the offense.  The momentum that propels this team now is a combination of drive and dedication from everyone.

Back in first place since holding the spot on June 21, Oakland hopes to maintain their position but knows there’s a lot of baseball to be played.  Veteran center-fielder Coco Crisp agrees that the A’s key component to winning has been a good effort from all.

“This year it’s been more of a team effort than relying on pitching as we did last season for sure,” Crisp said.  “This season has been more balanced with hitting and pitching.  And the consistency of the team all the way around has been a big difference as well.”

Taking nothing for granted, Oakland understands anything can change but right now they’re having a good time playing baseball.  It doesn’t matter who they face from either league, they’re only goal is to win games and have fun doing it.