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Dodgers face tough task in Oakland with baseball’s hottest team

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Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Coming off one of the toughest stretches in recent seasons, the Dodgers finished up 17 straight games out of the All-Star break Sunday, going 9-8 against teams competing for a postseason berth.

It doesn’t get any easier this week as they embark on a six-game road trip with two teams on the short list of those that have a better record than the Dodgers since mid-June. First up, the hottest team in baseball.

The Athletics are 33-10 since June 15 and have won 14 of 16 at home during that time. When they woke up on June 16, Oakland was 11.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West and 11 games back of the second wild card.

Side note: Three of their 10 losses came in a three-game sweep during the last weekend in July, courtesy of the Rockies at Coors Field — the next stop on this trip for the Dodgers.

At the moment, the A’s have not only taken over the second wild card spot, they’ve nearly chased down Houston (4.5 back) for the division and the Yankees (3.0 back) for the top wild card.

When these two clubs met in April, they were obviously different than their current makeup. They split a two-game series at Dodger Stadium that saw a 4-0 shutout win for the Dodgers, and a 16-6 blowout win for Oakland.

The cause for the A’s turnaround has centered around a strong bullpen and powerful offense. Oakland’s bullpen was already one of the best this season before trading for Jeurys Familia. Over the last two weeks, A’s relievers have only allowed 11 runs (7 earned) in 46 13 innings.

Familia himself has allowed just an unearned run in eight innings over six appearances since Oakland acquired him July 21.

One thing that the Athletics have that the Dodgers don’t is a bonafide setup man in the eighth inning. Rookie Lou Trivino has a sparkling 1.16 ERA and is 8-1 this season in 45 appearances. Getting Familia only made that gap between the starter and closer Blake Treinen — 0.95 ERA in 47 appearances — that much harder on opponents.

How does Trivino have eight wins as a reliever? The A’s are really good late in games when it’s close. They’ve won 11 of 15 games in which they were tied after seven inning, they’ve never lost when they have a lead after seven (45-0) or eight (53-0) and they are a major-league best 21-9 in one-run games.

Leading the charge on offense is Matt Chapman and Khris Davis. Over the past 35 games, Chapman has a 1.070 OPS in 148 plate appearances, with 22 extra-base hits. Davis has a 1.046 over his last 31 games and has hit 10 homers since the All-Star break. Davis actually has a .951 OPS going back to May 14.

As a team, the A’s have scored over five runs per game for nearly two months now.

Old Friend Alert

Edwin Jackson — he of the 13 teams in 16 years in the big leagues — was signed to a minor league deal in June and has been great for Oakland. The Dodgers’ sixth-round pick back in 2001 is 3-2 with a 2.87 ERA in eight starts. Jackson will not pitch in this series.

Chris Hatcher is in Oakland’s bullpen but hasn’t pitched since July 28. Not even a third of his 30 appearances have come with his team ahead.

Brett Anderson is also with the A’s, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)

Rich Hill (4-4, 3.63) has allowed just 14 runs (13 earned) in 48 23 innings over eight starts since returning from the DL on June 19. One of the more consistent pitchers for the Dodgers over the past few weeks, Hill has been messing with different arm angles again.

Sean Manaea (10-7, 3.38) has allowed three or less runs in 11 straight starts since the start of June, going 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA over that span.

Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA, MLB Network out-of-market only)

Even in a “down year,” Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 2.55) has allowed two or less earned runs in 13 of his 16 starts this season. Since his major league rehab start in New York, the lefty has rattled off seven starts that have increasingly looked more like himself.

In those seven starts, Kershaw is 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA, striking out 41 against seven walks and a 0.946 WHIP.

Anderson (2-3, 4.64) signed a minor league deal with the A’s during spring training and was added to the roster back in May. Managing to stay upright, the lefty has struggled at times this season, giving up four or more in three of his nine starts.

But since he gave up nine runs on May 7, Anderson has allowed 13 runs over seven starts. The A’s have won five of those seven starts, including his last time out when he pitched seven scoreless against the Tigers — yes they’re still a baseball team.

**Update**

Anderson will not be starting Wednesday. Instead, newly acquired Mike Fiers will make his Athletics debut.