Halfway there. Well, unofficially.
The A's reached the All-Star break after defeating the Mariners 7-4 in the series finale at Safeco Field on Sunday. Oakland improved to 50-41 with the victory, just one fewer win through the first 91 games than a season ago.
The A's offense was clearly eager to reach the unofficial midway point, as they wasted no time in getting to work against the Mariners' pitching staff. Seattle used an "opener" for the first time in the series, and that decision clearly backfired.
Marcus Semien opened the game with an infield single. Robbie Grossman followed that with a walk. Then, on a 2-2 pitch, Matt Olson deposited a ball in the right-field bleachers, giving Oakland a three-run lead before recording a single out. After Khris Davis struck out, Mark Canha doubled and Ramon Laureano singled, ending Matt Carasiti's outing after just 1/3 of an inning.
Wade LeBlanc then replaced Carasiti to face Chad Pinder, who promptly lined a single to left field on the very first pitch -- which Dylan Moore misplayed on the bounce -- allowing both Canha and Laureano to score. By the time the first inning came to an end, the A's had built a lead that the Mariners would prove unable to overcome. Then, Marcus Semien led off the second inning with a home run to left-center.
That early surge would account for all of the A's runs until the eighth inning, when Laureano launched a towering shot down the left-field line. It was ruled a home run on the field, but the Mariners protested. Despite the video review clearly showing the ball as going foul, the umpires stuck with the ruling on the field, verifying Laureano's homer, much to Seattle's chagrin.
"If it went over the pole, then I think it was a homer," Laureano said with a wry smile following the victory, "but I haven't looked at the replay, so I'm going to check it out later on."
Daniel Mengden made use of the early advantage, keeping the Mariners off-balance, limiting them to six hits and three runs through 5 1/3 innings while striking out two. Ryan Buchter, Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria combined to pitch 2 2/3 innings, allowing only one run on Omar Narvaez' solo homer in the eighth, before giving way to Liam Hendriks in the ninth.
Hendriks, who will represent Oakland at the All-Star Game, continued his dominant season, allowing only a two-out single to Dee Gordon before securing his fifth save of the year. He's now pitched 16 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing a run, a span dating back more than a month.
Simply put, the A's are firing on all cylinders right now, playing their strongest stretch of baseball since their lengthy win streak in late May. They enter the All-Star break having won nine of their last 12 games, and have allowed three-or-fewer runs in more than half of those contests. Additionally, with three more homers Sunday, the A's increased their season total to 145, establishing a new franchise record for the most home runs prior to the All-Star break.
"I don't think we've played our best baseball yet," Bob Melvin said after the victory. "To go through what we went through in the first half to get to this point and end up with 50 wins, I think that's pretty good."
With Sunday's win, the A's sit just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card, and trail the Astros by 7.5 games for the division lead. If they haven't played their best baseball yet as Melvin believes, it should make for quite the entertaining playoff push.