There is nothing like a sweep at home at the hands of the rebuilding Atlanta Braves to completely take the wind out of the sails of a streaky-but-improving A’s squad. Losing is always frustrating, but there are some silver linings behind the poor play – namely (in no particular order) priority in waiver claims, higher draft picks, and watching highly-touted-but-still-too-raw prospects get their first exposure to and experience in the big leagues. None of the previous entirely justify tanking, as the strategy of intentionally losing is viable in more individualized sports like football or basketball, where those being drafted are easier to project and can have immediate impacts on their team, but at least a young and growing team is more fun to watch lose than one that is aging and falling apart at the seams. The previously hot bats for Oakland were cooled off in dramatic fashion by Atlanta’s pitching staff, but the A’s will look to reignite their fire-powered offense against the Chicago White Sox.

Those who have been following the division standings closely will be shocked by the following update for the AL West.

· Houston: 56-27

· Anaheim: 43-43

· Seattle: 41-42

· Texas: 40-42

· Oakland: 35-47

In three months, literally nothing has changed! Like it has been all year, the A’s are streaking their way to the bottom, the middle teams of the division have been cursed by a tiny, malevolent wizard that will cause their players to die of exposure if their goes above .500 for more than two or three days at a time, and the Astros are winning twice as often as they are losing, and are the sole reason the 2017 AL West isn’t as embarrassing as the 2005 NL West.

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The last time the South Side Sox took on Oakland, towards the end of June, the A’s swept them at their home and netted an entire a full quarter of the team’s road wins in the one series. The A’s were firing on all cylinders and had their strongest collective overall series against the White Sox just a few weeks ago, and were able to get the sweep thanks to some stellar pitching performances and a strong debut from Franklin Barreto. Most assuredly, the team will be looking to repeat their performance from a couple weeks ago in front of their home fans.

Like the A’s, the White Sox are just a few key pieces away from competing in a weak division, and they potentially traded away those key pieces during the offseason in exchange for a massive haul of prospects, choosing to commit fully to a rebuild rather than further jeopardize the team’s future. As such, the White Sox are just a few percentage points better than the A’s in the standings, and the two teams profile similarly, and this next series ought to feature close, hard fought games.

Who’s Hot/Not

The White Sox have enjoyed quite a few offensive outbreaks this season from places all over the roster, most notably from the team’s outfielders (Melky Cabrera’s regression notwithstanding), but also from places one would least expect, such as catcher, where rookie Kevan Smith is hitting over .400 in his last fifty at bats while playing good defense, as well as from third baseman not named Todd Frazier.

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And while Avisail Garcia, the right fielder for Chicago, is the Chi Sox’ lone position player representative on the American League All-Star roster, for his last twenty-plus at bats, he’s failed to reach base and has been pressing at the plate. His presence in the middle of the order is one of the main keys to success for this White Sox lineup, and until now he has been the team’s most consistent hitter this season.

The Matchups

Monday, July 3rd @ 6:05 PM – Jharel Cotton vs Carlos Rodon

Tuesday, July 4th @ 1:05 PM – Daniel Gossett vs James Shields

Wednesday, July 5th @ 12:35 PM – Sonny Gray vs Mike Pelfrey

All games are on NBCSCA and MLB.tv

How the A’s Win the Series

There is good news on the injury front for the A’s, as the team gets closer and closer to being at full strength once more, with regular contributors Marcus Semien, Kendall Graveman, and Chad Pinder due to return sooner rather than later. Jharel Cotton’s blister is entirely gone, and should be a non-issue in his start on Monday as Cotton continues to re-find the consistency that got him to the big leagues in a big way last season. Matt Chapman is also entirely over his knee infection and will be champing at the bit to get back into Oakland’s starting lineup for Monday night’s game against White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, who is making his second start of the season since returning from an injury, himself.

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The Independence Day game will be a rematch of the A’s best game in recent memory, when Matt Olson, Jaycob Brugman, and Franklin Barreto all hit the first home runs of their big-league careers and Daniel Gossett had his best start in his brief time in the show. Ideally, the A’s will be able to provide more fireworks at the expense of James Shields once more.

All eyes will be on Oakland on Wednesday, as the pitcher is the belle of the ball this trade season and has all the top contenders sizing him up. While his time in Oakland may be coming to a close, the righty still has the ace potential fans now expect from him, and though his game-to-game consistency has been lacking since his career started to get muddled from injuries, teams across the league cannot resist his bright shine and potential.

There were many-a bombs bursting in air the last time Oakland’s lineup took on the White Sox pitching staff, so hopefully the A’s offense wakes up once more, as the team was thoroughly snuffed for three straight losses versus Braves’ pitching. The A’s can still salvage this homestand with some good baseball during these next few games.

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