A's playing well in wake of Holliday trade
Stability, influx of youth among reasons for recent success
OAKLAND -- When the A's traded star outfielder Matt Holliday and veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the proverbial white flag seemed to be waved.
The players left behind didn't see it.
Despite losing their most feared slugger in Holliday and one of their most respected clubhouse leaders in Cabrera, the A's have played some of their best baseball of the season of late.
For instance, when they upset the visiting Yankees on Monday night, beating A.J. Burnett behind five innings of shutout work from Yankees castoff Brett Tomko, it was Oakland's ninth victory in 14 games.
The young and rebuilding A's went on to lose the final two games of the three-game series before getting Thursday off, but they've played .500 baseball in August after being unable to post a winning record in each of the season's first four months.
Theories abound regarding reasons for the recent surge, with lineup stability and enthusiasm tops among them.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of things," said veteran second baseman Mark Ellis, who was named the American League Player of the Week on Monday. "Everything's kind of settled down now, so the guys who are here kind of know they're going to be here. And I think it always helps having a bunch of young guys, especially this time of year.
"It's hot, and we're playing a lot of games, but these guys are excited to be here, and that rubs off a little bit. We've definitely been playing better than we have in a while. It's nice."
Manager Bob Geren continues to tinker with his batting order virtually every day, but in contrast to the pre-Deadline days, when many players immediately checked the lineup card upon arriving at the clubhouse to see if -- and where -- they were playing, several roles have been more clearly defined.
"It's nice going to work knowing you're going to be in there," said Rajai Davis, who has taken hold of the starting job in center field since Holliday's departure moved Scott Hairston from center to left. "It's one less thing you have to think about. It simplifies everything, and when you simplify things, it makes the game easier."
Davis, a strong defensive outfielder whose base-stealing ability has changed the dynamic of several recent Oakland victories, has been one of the team's hottest hitters of late.
Prior to the Holliday trade, Davis had been a part-time player since joining the A's early last season, claimed off the waiver wire from the Giants.
"The biggest thing, for me, is we're swinging the bats better," Geren said. "We've got some guys, like Elly and Raj, and a few other guys who are really swinging the bat much better these days, and we've had some times this year, earlier, when we didn't have more than one or two guys -- if that -- doing a whole lot.
"We're also getting a little bit more team speed in the lineup more regularly, and obviously Rajai is a big part of that. I think that changes things up and helps quite a bit, too."
Rookie first baseman Tommy Everidge, who was tearing up Triple-A Sacramento before being promoted in late July, also had become something of a mainstay. He's had some ups and downs, as do virtually all rookies, but the release of veteran Jason Giambi and an injury to Daric Barton have allowed Everidge to settle into a regular role.
"It's definitely nice knowing you're probably going to play every day," Everidge said. "Not many guys get called up in July and get that, so you have to try to take advantage of it."
Everidge and Davis couldn't be more opposite in terms of body type -- Davis the Lamborghini to Everidge's John Deere tractor. But they both bring the same type of vibe to the proceedings, and Geren thinks it's been a factor in his team's relative success in grinding through the dog days of summer.
"Any time you have guys getting a nice opportunity to show what they can do with regular playing time, you're going to get that hunger, that energy," Geren said. "There is a certain energetic feel to some of these guys that's carrying over to some of the rest of the guys.
"It's a comfortable energy, too, not over-the-top or anything like that. But it's definitely a different feel than we had earlier in the season, even in the dugout."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.