The Oakland Athletics have lived an entire season in less than a month.
A franchise notorious for slow starts and hot streaks compressed that lifestyle into a record-setting 20-day stretch during which it made history – becoming the first team to lose its first six games and then win 11 in a row at any point in the season, according to STATS, Inc.
That the A's endured that low and enjoyed that high in nearly consecutive fashion – they beat the Dodgers for their first win on April 7, lost the next day to Houston and haven't lost since – is enough to make any manager's head spin.
"Talk about a complete flip of the script," A's manager Bob Melvin said of a club that got outscored 50-13 in starting 0-6.
Melvin's squad is still just halfway to the franchise record of 20 consecutive wins, set by the 2002 "Moneyball" A's who famously started slowly – 20-25 at one point – before catching fire.
This turnaround, of course, is far more abrupt.
A look at just some of the factors for this turnaround:
It's the pitching, stupid
In a typical season, it takes well more than a month for sample sizes to settle in. And it's definitely far too soon to project just how the A's rotation will shake out over the next five months, particularly after the stunted aberration that was 2020.
Yet the about-face of Oakland's starters early on has been startling.
They were pelted in their first go-round – or two, or three – in the rotation but stabilized and even dominated since then. Third-year lefty Jesus Luzardo lugged an 8.31 ERA into his fourth start of the season Tuesday against Minnesota – and promptly gave up two hits in 5 ⅓ shutout innings, finishing off a doubleheader sweep.
Earlier that afternoon, Sean Manaea – shelled for five runs in his first outing – pitched a seven-inning shutout, his third straight start giving up two or fewer runs. Even fifth starter Cole Irvin – who came into the year with a 6.75 ERA in 19 games with Philadelphia – shook off two ugly starts to shut out the Tigers over six innings his last time out.
Only No. 1 starter Chris Bassitt has been consistent thus far, leaving open the question of which sample truly represents how good the A's rotation may be. Yet pitching coach Scott Emerson is among the finest in the business, and it's certainly no coincidence significant adjustments were made the second, third or fourth time around, to great success.
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