Jed Lowrie, Mike Zunino

First-place Athletics set a franchise mark with 59th win before the All-Star break

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The Athletics avoided a series sweep in Seattle against the Mariners with a 4-1 victory on Sunday afternoon. The win improved their record to 59-36. The second-place Angels won as well, so the A’s go into the All-Star break 1.5 games ahead in first place.

As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the 59 wins at the break is the most in Athletics franchise history and the most for any team since the Tigers won 59 in 2006.

With 94 and 96 wins in each of the last two seasons, the A’s have won the AL West two years in a row, but were ushered out of the American League Division series twice, both by the Detroit Tigers (and Justin Verlander more specifically). GM Billy Beane bolstered the starting staff, acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a trade with the Cubs recently. Samardzija will lead the Athletics out of the break on Friday at home against the Orioles. Hammel will pitch Saturday.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.