OAKLAND – The Oakland Athletics have won 20 straight games, yet they all know they haven’t won anything yet.
One look at the standings reveals what manager Art Howe reminds his players: Despite their thrilling charge to baseball’s longest winning streak in 67 years, Oakland is just 3 1/2 games in front of Anaheim for the AL West lead.
With one poor series in the A’s final 23 games, the longest winning streak in AL history could become a memory.
“That’s one of the most amazing parts of all this,” left-hander Barry Zito said. “We’ve been the hottest team in years, and we’re still one bad series away from second place. It just reminds us to treat every game the same way and not think about the streak.”
The A’s, winners of every game on their schedule since Aug. 12, open a three-game series at Minnesota on Friday night with a chance to make their streak the second-longest in major league history. The Chicago Cubs of 1880 and 1935 both won 21 straight; the major league record is 26, set by the 1916 New York Giants.
The AL Central-leading Twins, who lost three tough games at the Coliseum last weekend, will break out the famed Homer Hankies at the Metrodome to boost their fans’ enthusiasm as they attempt to end Oakland’s run.
A’s right-hander Cory Lidle, the AL Pitcher of the Month for August after allowing exactly one earned run in six outstanding starts, faces Brad Radke in the first game.
“These three games coming up will be the toughest we’ve played during the streak,” said first baseman Scott Hatteberg, whose pinch-hit homer in the ninth gave Oakland a 12-11 win over Kansas City on Wednesday night. “That’s a division-leading team playing at home. We’ll have to get a little lucky to come out of there with all three games.”
No matter when it ends, the streak has given Oakland the push it needed to move ahead in baseball’s toughest three-team division race.
When the streak began, Oakland was 4 1/2 games behind Seattle in third. The A’s needed seven straight wins to claim a share of the division lead, and they didn’t have sole possession until their 10th straight victory on Aug. 23.
But not even a wild card berth is a certainty for Oakland. The struggling Seattle Mariners are seven games behind the A’s – but everybody in baseball learned what manager Lou Piniella’s players can do last season, when they won 116 games.
The A’s have six games remaining against Seattle, including a three-game series in Oakland next weekend. The A’s final 20 games are against division opponents.