When the Oakland Athletics fell nine games below .500 on June 10, it would have been easy to write off 2012 as another season of irrelevance. For a team that began the year with minimal expectations and a payroll that ranked second-lowest in baseball, the losing also didn't come as much of a surprise.
How quickly things can change.
After falling to 26-35, the A's have quietly won 20 of 28 games and have joined a crowded playoff race in the American League. Thanks to the introduction of an additional wild card spot this year, the A's are only a half-game behind Detroit for the league's final playoff berth, but Cleveland,
Baltimore, Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto all sit within two games of the Tigers.
Since the start of July, the A's have been the hottest team in baseball -- sporting a 9-1 record. They've picked up five games on the division-leading Texas Rangers in that span and begin a two-game set with Texas Tuesday in Oakland.
Are the A's a legitimate playoff contender? Maybe, maybe not. But they're certainly relevant, which is a win in its own right.
A few highlights from July:
- Yoenis Cespedes was named AL Player of the Week Monday after going 8 for 14 with a double, two home runs, six RBI and five runs scored in a three-game sweep at Minnesota.
- Brandon Moss is hitting .348 with four home runs and seven RBI.
- Chris Carter has hit .346 with five home runs and nine RBI since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on June 29.
- Josh Reddick is hitting .325 with a pair of homers and 22 total bases.
With the Rangers in for two games, followed by the New York Yankees in for four , the A's have a chance to legitimize themselves as a playoff threat.
Follow Kyle Bonagura on Twitter: @KyleBonagura