Are These Athletics For Real?

Jonny Gomes and Brandon Moss of the Oakland Athletics celebates after Moss hit an RBI single to drive in Yoenis Cespedes (not pictured) for a walk-off win against the New York Yankees at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics won the game 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

With the Oakland Athletics picking up yet another walk-off win Friday night -- this one against the best team in the American League -- it's beginning to look like the A's are in contention to stay.

Friday night, the Oakland Athletics beat the New York Yankees, 3-2.

The A's beat the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Brandon Moss's game-winning double.

But this sort of thing has become old cap. To wit:

Remarkable, indeed. I don't believe the A's had seven walk-off wins in all of 2011.

Of course, these things do happen. What makes the A's recent thrills more interesting is that they've somehow become relevant parties in the American League. Roughly six weeks ago, the Athletics stood at 26-35, nine games out of first place and nearly as far behind in the Wild Card standings. Their hitting was heading for various records in futility.

Then they started winning. Since the 10th of June, the A's have won 23 of 32 games. They're still far behind the first-place Rangers, but they're now right in the middle of the Wild Card race, just a half-game out of the second spot (currently held by the Tigers).

Are these A's for real, though?

Well, first we should acknowledge that the A's have hardly been dominant. They've outscored their opponents by 15 runs, which is essentially no different than zero runs, which essentially means the A's are a .500 team but little (or no) better.

Essentially.

Which means they must play even better than they've played.

Which means the pitching has to continue roughly apace -- at the moment, they've got the lowest ERA in the American League -- and the hitting has to improve. On the latter front, no help is coming; when Brandon Inge and Brandon Moss are playing key roles, you can probably figure the farm system's not going to helping much.

The A's do have a great deal of pitching depth; as Marc Normandin recently noted, if the A's need yet another young starting pitcher, they've got a good one in the minors.

A month ago, the Athletics were true long shots to be in the postseason mix, come September.

Now they're medium shots.

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