Coming Out On Top
hiladelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers were declared the winners at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
It was pretty much a fait accompli that these two teams would be the last two standing come American League Championship Series time.
And why not?
The A's, who at the time owned baseball's best record, picked up ace left-hander Jon Lester from Boston after having already traded for righties Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a deal with Chicago, while Detroit shored up an already dominant rotation with the acquisition of former American League Cy Young Award winner David Price.
But a funny thing has happened since then.
Oakland no longer owns the best record in baseball. In fact, they are not even in first place in the division anymore and head into action on Tuesday a half game back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League West.
The Tigers, meanwhile, led the American League Central by four games at the time of the Price trade. They now trail the Kansas City Royals by two and aren't even one of the two teams in the wild card mix.
So what's happened?
Well, Oakland is 7-10 in August and may have hit rock bottom over the weekend with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves that culminated with the first loss in an A's uniform for Lester.
It's hard to put this on Lester, though, as he had been terrific in his first three starts before losing Sunday's finale.
"Guys are competing, we're just not getting results right now," Lester said. "The times that we need to get a guy in, we're just not doing it. The times we need to make a pitch, we're not doing it. This team's too good to stay in this funk."
Oakland's recent funk, six losses in seven games, has come on the road. The A's will return to the friendly confines of O.co Coliseum, where they own the best record in baseball at 40-21, for five games this week with the punchless New York Mets and Angels.
Actually Friday's tilt with the Halos is the first of 10 games remaining between the two from now until the end of the season. That is what determine the A's season. Not this recent slide.
"Every team goes through a stretch like this," Stephen Vogt said. "I don't think there's any team in the big leagues that's ever not had a stretch like this. I think for us, it's good it's happening now with this much time left."
In Detroit's case it's more about the team they are battling with in the Royals, who seem to have forgotten how to lose. Although, the Tigers have made it kind of easy on them, losing eight of their last 12 overall.
"It is baseball, but we need to play better," Brad Ausmus said. "We're a better team than this. Period."
And just like Lester, Price has given the Tigers what they expected, going 1-0 his three starts, while pitching to a 3.18 ERA. However, it's been another one of the Tigers vaunted three former Cy Young Award winners that is giving them sleepless nights and that is righty Justin Verlander.
Verlander missed his first career start on Sunday due to health-related reasons, as he is dealing with some inflammation in his right shoulder. The team, though, is hoping a little extra rest will allow him to pitch in Minnesota this weekend.
Regardless, the Tigers need Kansas City to slow down. At least a little anyway. The Royals have won eight straight series and 21 of 26 games overall to move two games up on the Tigers after trailing them by as many as eight games as recently as July 21.
Detroit, though, is just one back in the loss column and still has six games left with the Royals in September.
"Nobody likes losing, especially on this team," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "We've gotten real used to winning in this organization. When you lose, you're always frustrated, whether it's now or in April. We've just got to play better."
I guess that's why they play the games, right?