Oakland's opening month was highlighted by introducing the American League to Nick Swisher. The A's second-year player got off to one of the hottest starts in the league, hitting .313 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs. The A's suffered injuries to starting pitchers Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza, shortstop Bobby Crosby and closer Huston Street.
The A's are known for starting slow, and they did it again in 2006 by winning just two series in May. The highlights of the month were Frank Thomas' two homers against his former team, the White Sox, on May 22, and Jason Kendall's homer on May 31. Kendall's homer against the Royals, a game in which Joe Blanton threw his first career shutout, barely cleared the left-field wall and was his first in 961 at-bats.
Kendall's homer to end May seemed to push the A's to win their next five series. Oakland won 10 straight from June 8-18 that included sweeps of the Yankees, Dodgers and Mariners. The hardest of those 10 games was a win over the Dodgers in 17 innings on June 17. The A's started hot, but struggled in Interleague Play and went 4-6 to end the month.
The A's continued to scuffle in Interleague Play, finishing 8-10 vs. the National League West. But when Oakland started a three-game series against Detroit, the club proved it could compete with baseball's best team. The A's took two of three from the Tigers with good pitching performanes from Dan Haren and Blanton. The A's ended the first half of the season by losing three of four to the Angels.
The A's proved again that they live for August by winning seven series and splitting one with the Royals. They beat the Mariners six times in the month, and with their win on Aug. 16, they extended their win streak over Seattle to 15 straight. The A's proved again that they could come from behind, when they came back from an 8-0 deficit to beat the Blue Jays, 12-10, on Aug. 21. The A's pitching staff ranked first in the Majors with a 3.25 ERA in August. Loaiza earned AL Pitcher of the Month with a 4-0 record and 1.48 ERA.
Thomas made a push for MVP in September by hitting 10 homers and driving in 30 RBIs. His biggest series came against the White Sox, hitting two homers and driving in seven runs against his former team. The "Big Hurt" also homered in six straight games from Sept. 5-11. The A's went 7-3 in a 10-game homestand against the White Sox, Indians and Angels. A big game for Oakland was on Sept. 13, when Haren held Minnesota scoreless for eight innings in a 1-0 victory. Haren's big effort ended an eight-game streak in which no A's starter had a quality start. Oakland clinched the American League West on Sept. 26 with a 12-3 win over Seattle.
Ryan Quinn is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less