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.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.