For all the talk about creative offensive ideas, Oakland's real success has come from its ability to develop pitching talent, and that's the case again this year as the A's emerge as a surprise in the American League West, thanks in part to their 19-5 romp through July.

In a look at what's up this weekend and what went down in the past week, the A's latest pitching phenom, Dan Straily, is on center stage.

THREE UP

Dan who? That's Dan Straily, S-T-R-A-I-L-Y. He might be the most dominating, underappreciated pitcher in the Minor Leagues, but on Friday night, he starts to get some headlines. The A's added him to the big league roster and will start him against Toronto. Straily has struck out a professional baseball leading 175 batters in 138 1/3 innings between Double-A Midland (67 strikeouts in 53 innings) and Triple-A Sacramento (108 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings).

Haven't heard much about Straily? Don't feel bad. There really hasn't been much said about him despite those numbers. In preseason rankings, Straily was not mentioned by any rating service as a prospect worth watching.

A 24th-round Draft choice out of Marshall University three years ago, Straily is one of those late bloomers. He has improved his velocity and movement each year in pro ball in big part because of a high-octane work ethic. Straily is going to become only the fourth Marshall product to reach the big leagues, the first since Rick Reed, who was a 26th-round Draft choice of Pittsburgh in 1986. Jeff Montgomery was Cincinnati's ninth-round pick in 1983, and then there was catcher Joe Goddard, an eighth-round selection of San Diego in 1971 who spent 12 games in the big leagues, all in 1972, with San Diego.

Reunion: Seattle just can't seem to escape the shadow of Ichiro Suzuki. The day he was traded to the New York Yankees, July 23, the Mariners happened to be opening a series at Safeco Field against the Yankees. Friday night, 12 days later, the Mariners arrive at Yankee Stadium to once again face their old teammate and his new team -- not that the loss of the potential Hall of Fame outfielder seems to be bother the Mariners. Fact is, there's a feeling that maybe having cut ties with Suzuki, who never was a comfortable fit in the clubhouse, has been a plus for the Mariners.

Seattle lost two out of three to the Yankees in the immediate aftermath of the trade of Suzuki, but arrives in the Big Apple with a seven-game winning streak -- albeit all seven games were at home and included a four-game sweep of Kansas City, which has the worst record in the AL, and a three-game sweep of Toronto, the only AL East team with a losing record. The Yankees had the best record in the AL when they acquired Suzuki, and despite losing five of nine since the addition, they are tied for the best record. As for Suzuki, he had nine hits and had produced only four runs in his first 36 at-bats with the Yankees.

Rebound: San Francisco is barely hanging onto the National League West lead. The Giants just lost three of four games to the Mets at AT&T Park, where their 32-23 record is the best home-field mark in their division and is the third-best home advantage in the NL. The struggle against the Mets left them with just a half-game edge on second-place Los Angeles and two games up on third-place Arizona.

Now the Giants embark on a week-long road trip that includes a four-game visit to St. Louis next week, but starts with three games in Colorado, which could be just what they need. The Giants have, after all, had more success since September 2010 against the Rockies (19-8) than any other team in baseball, and their all-time record against Colorado of 172-134 is the fourth best of any team against the Rockies. What's more, the Giants open the weekend series by sending Ryan Vogelsong to the mound against one of their former pitchers, Jonathan Sanchez. Vogelsong has made 10 career appearances, six starts, against the Rockies and is not only 4-0, but has a 1.70 ERA. While he is only 1-2 in his past five starts this season, the 2.18 ERA over that stretch is more telling of how well he has pitched.

Sanchez? He could well be making his third and final start with the Rockies, who picked him up last month from Kansas City for Jeremy Guthrie in a swap of disappointments that appealed to the Rockies because they saved at least $1.2 million in the deal. Sanchez has given up 11 runs in 8 1/3 innings for Colorado. And it's not like the struggle is something new. Combine his two starts for the Rockies with his last four with Kansas City and the results are an 0-5 record, 12.08 ERA and 22 walks to go with 37 hits in 25 1/3 innings.

The next two games will be a little more interesting. Madison Bumgarner, who starts Saturday for the Giants, has a 2.84 career ERA at Coors Field, but is only 2-2, and Sunday's starter, Tim Lincecum, is 4-3 at Coors Field despite a 4.31 ERA.

THREE DOWN

They're back: The focus on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark was the AL debut of Ryan Dempster, who actually originally signed with the Rangers as a third-round Draft choice out of high school but was traded to Florida before getting to the big leagues and had never worn an AL uniform until Thursday. Dempster, however, quickly became a sideshow, failing to survive five innings and giving up seven runs. The big news in Arlington, however, is that baseball's best offense has resurfaced after a month-long sabbatical.

The Angels won the first two games of their four-game visit to Texas to pull within four games of the division-leading Rangers. But once the month of July came to an end, the Rangers apparently were able to put an end to one of the most miserable months they could imagine. After rallying for an 11-10, 10-inning win on Wednesday, the Rangers' offense got Dempster off the hook with a 15-9 win on Thursday. Big deal? Well, that's 26 runs in the first two days of August. And while the Rangers lead the Majors in hitting and runs scored, those two offensive outbursts were a much needed relief after the previous 31 days, during which the Rangers, despite leading the AL West, were one of the worst teams in baseball. Their nine July wins ranked 13th in the AL, ahead of only Kansas City, which won seven. They scored fewer runs (81) than any big league team during the month, and their .243 batting average ranked 11th in the AL.

Second thoughts: Washington did not add any help for the rotation prior to the Trade Deadline, but the Nationals say they are intent on limiting the workload of Stephen Strasburg, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Strasburg is still in the rotation, but he hasn't been as dominating of late as he was earlier. After an 8-0 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday, Strasburg's innings total was 121 1/3.

Manager Davey Johnson did say the team intends to bring a premature end to Strasburg's season, even though the Nats are leading the NL East in a bid to advance to the postseason for only the second time in franchise history. Speculation now is that 140 innings might be the barrier. What has the attention of the Washington brass is the recent inconsistency of Strasburg. He is 11-5 overall, but the Nationals are 2-5 his past seven starts, and his ERA has risen from 2.46 to its current 3.12.

Tuneup: NL Central-leading Cincinnati tuned up for its weekend showdown against second-place Pittsburgh by taking three of four from San Diego, which gives the Reds 13 wins in their past 14 games, which has allowed them to take the lead in the division by three games over Pittsburgh. But then the Reds are in a stretch of their schedule that is conducive for them to run off a strong record. The three-game weekend series against Pirates provides the only games against a team with a winning record that the Reds play in a 34-game stretch. It began with a three-game sweep of Milwaukee on July 20-22, and then came sweeps in Houston and Colorado, the Reds' first undefeated multi-city road trip since 1999. It ends with four games in Philadelphia on Aug. 20-23. Key for the Reds has been stability in the rotation.

The Reds are 105 games into the season and have not wavered from their season-opening five-man rotation. It's the longest stretch of maintaining a season-opening rotation for the Reds since they went 147 games in 1898 before needing an additional starter for the first time. The previous franchise modern-day record was 80 games in 1992. No other Major League team has used only five starters this season.