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.
Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.
Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.
Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.