Once again, Billy Beane's budget A's are keeping up with, if not out-performing, the big spenders, writes Carroll Rogers.
MLB: Oakland Athletics are on the money
For a handful of years now, the Oakland Athletics have been more curiosity than contender.
The team run by general manager Billy Beane, the inspiration for the book and subsequent movie Moneyball, has been held up as an example of baseball's counter-culture.
A low-payroll team in the junky stadium, built on theories about on-base percentage and computer models over traditional scouting.
But for the past five years it has been more circus show than substance.
The A's have not had a winning season since 2006. Some in the media even projected a 100-loss season for 2012.
So what to make of the A's now?
The ragtag team with youth, moxie and plenty of facial hair, just took two out of three from the star-studded Los Angeles Angels to move ahead of them into second place in the AL West.
The A's are 7-5 for the season against the Angels, a team with a payroll that's US$100 million (Dh367.3m) higher than theirs.
"The more we win and the more we compete with teams that are considered the best teams, the more confidence we're going to have," Bob Melvin, the Oakland manager, told reporters.
The A's served notice they had something good going shortly after the All-Star break when they won four straight one-run games over the New York Yankees. They were 17-10 since the All-Star break until yesterday and one of the hottest teams since July 1. With their series win over the Angels, the A's moved into a tie for the American League wild-card lead.
So what gives?
"It's chemistry, man," closer Ryan Cook told the Associated Press after Wednesday's 9-8 win over the Angels.
Cook had given up two runs in the ninth but still recorded the save
The Athletics gave up five home runs in that game but still won, something that has happened only twice in their franchise history. Their line-up picked up the slack, with at least one hit from each of the top eight spots in the order.
The A's are last in the majors with a .230 team batting average, but they find hits when they need them. They lead the majors with 13 walk-off wins, with 11 different players driving in the winning run.
Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes, their $36m prize in left field, has hit .307 with 15 doubles, 10 stolen bases, and 56 RBI in 79 games.
And just to reinforce their move in the standings over the Angels this week, the A's have won a higher percentage of games with Cespedes in the line-up (48-30, .615), than the Angels (54-39, .580) since the highly-publicised call-up of Mike Trout.
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