Luzardo, Puk, Murphy Hold Key to the Oakland Athletics’ Playoff Fate

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SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28: Relief pitcher Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Oakland Athletics reacts after the final out of a game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 28, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Athletics won 1-0. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28: Relief pitcher Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Oakland Athletics reacts after the final out of a game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 28, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Athletics won 1-0. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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The Oakland Athletics finally have the talent and team makeup to contend for a championship, and its because they have turned the keys of the franchise over to their young stars.

The entire month of July, the Oakland Athletics were rumored to be in play for the big trade pieces of Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard among others, even having the support of one White Cleat Beat writer to make a “go for it” move.

Billy Beane and David Forst made some deals – picking up Jake Diekman, Homer Bailey and Tanner Roark – but held onto all of their top 15 prospects.

A.J. Puk, Sean Murphy and Jesus Luzardo had all been hyped as the future but had been held up time and time again with no guarantee that they would be ready for the big leagues any time soon.

Now we see exactly why they did not budge on their future, and their young stars give the Oakland Athletics a real shot at making a run at the World Series.

How about this: Since A.J. Puk debuted on August 21 against the New York Yankees, the A’s are 23-11 in games when one of their five rookies (Puk, Luzardo, Murphy, Seth Brown and Sheldon Neuse) has played. That’s a 67.7% winning mark, a 109.6-win pace over a 162-game season.

They are a big reason why the A’s beat out the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays for the top AL Wild Card spot, and will be a big reason if they make it past this winner-take-all game.

Not that the roster outside of them isn’t great – the same roster that won 97 games last year and were on pace for over 90 wins once again – but the top of the top in the MLB is better now than it’s ever been.

And their future cornerstones will be in the middle of whatever the A’s do this postseason.

We have seen their talent on full display. Sean Murphy has hit four home runs and scored 14 runs with an .899 OPS over 20 games while being far and away the best defensive catcher on the roster, allowing only two passed balls and catching two of six baserunners with his rocket arm.

Seth Brown has been easily the biggest surprise of the bunch, hitting .293 with eight (EIGHT!) doubles and 13 RBIs in 26 games and Sheldon Neuse has been stellar defensively at second base while logging some big hits.

Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk have been godsends for a struggling bullpen as versatile and dominant pitchers.

They are part of the projected future rotation including Sean Manaea (who will start today’s WC Game) and Frankie Montas (who was on pace to be an All-Star before his PED suspension).

Since his return from shoulder surgery, Manaea, in five starts, has allowed four earned runs and struck out 30 in 29.2 IP. He has gone at least five innings and given up no more than two runs in each of those five starts.

He and the rest of the four horsemen this season have been spectacular, combining for a 2.29 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 162 strikeouts and a 4.26 K/BB ratio over 149 innings.

While their eyes may have been on the future by holding onto their coveted prospects, they now have the talent and composition to make a real run at the title.

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