MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 14: Chris Carter #22 of the Oakland Athletics congratulates Yoenis Cespedes #52 on a two run home run against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning on July 14, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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:
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