The Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants will head into the All-Star break in significantly better shape than a year ago.
First though, there is the matter of concluding the first part of the “Bay Bridge” series Sunday afternoon when the Giants host the Athletics at ATT Park.
Last season, the Giants were 34-56 at the break, their worst mark at the unofficial halfway point since reaching the break in 2008 at 40-55. This year, the Giants enter their final game before the break at 50-47 after not getting their 50th win until late-August last season en route to losing 98 games.
The Giants also are 5-4 in a stretch where they play 25 of 27 against winning teams and are seeking to improve to 11-0-2 in their last 13 series since April 8-10 despite hitting just five homers since the start of July.
San Francisco opened the series with a 7-1 victory but failed to clinch the series victory by leaving 11 runners on in a 4-3 loss on Saturday.
Rookie Steven Duggar drove in two more runs while Buster Posey also went 2-for-4. Duggar is 8-for-25 (.320) in his first five games while Posey is 10-for-29 (.345) in his last six games despite dealing with right hip inflammation that will keep him out of the All-Star game.
“He’s been playing with it. You could tell. All of you can tell,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy told reporters recently. “It’s bothering him. He’s been a warrior through this and had missed some time. The break will serve him well.”
Things were not going much better for the Athletics at this point a year ago. They reached the break at 39-50 and it was the third straight season they hit it with at least 50 losses and 10 games under .500.
This year the Athletics are 54-42 after pinch-hitter Mark Canha hit the go-ahead two-run homer off Tony Watson in the seventh inning Saturday.
Oakland is 14-4 in its last 18 games and 20-6 in its last 26 games since June 16 while totaling 39 homers in the hot stretch that has put them in the wild-card race and has management thinking about buying and not selling before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“It’s a team effort,” Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman told reporters after a game in Houston on Thursday. “We’re deep. One through nine, guys off the bench, there’s no letup in our lineup. I think we have one of the best lineups in all of baseball. We’re confident in that.”
Second baseman Jed Lowrie did not start but entered as a pinch hitter after sustaining a leg contusion colliding with right fielder Stephen Piscotty Friday. Lowrie is batting .323 (30-for-93) in his last 26 games and remains day-to-day.
The third pitching matchup in the six-game season series which resumes next weekend in Oakland features a pair of young left-handers as Oakland’s Sean Manaea opposes San Francisco’s Andrew Suarez.
Manaea is 8-6 with a 3.44 ERA and is on a nice roll in his last seven starts by going 3-0 with a 3.16 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .217 average.
It is a similar performance to how he began the season.
After starting out 4-2 with a 1.03 ERA in his first six starts, Manaea hit a speed bump by going 1-4 with a 7.18 ERA in his next six outings.
Manaea last pitched Tuesday in Oakland’s bizarre 6-5 11-inning loss at Houston when he allowed three runs on seven hits in four innings in a game that ended with catcher Jonathan Lucroy making a throwing error on Alex Bregman’s tapper in front of the plate.
He is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two career starts against the Giants, though both were across the bridge in Oakland.
Suarez also is hoping to keep a good streak going. He has allowed two runs or less in six straight outings while posting a 2.00 ERA in those games.
Overall, he is 3-5 with a 3.75 ERA in the first 15 starts of his career and the Giants are 6-9 in those games. He allowed one run on three hits in six innings and took a no-decision Monday against the Chicago Cubs in a game decided by Pablo Sandoval’s 11th-inning single.