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The Associated Press Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Fernando Abad celebrates at the end of a July 10 win over the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco.

The Associated Press San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws during Friday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in San Francisco.

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A's, Giants give Bay Area high hopes for the playoffs

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - Updated: 10:02 AM

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The small-budget Oakland Athletics are baseball's best team at the break in a division featuring some of the sport's highest-paid stars. The San Francisco Giants are right in the chase for the NL West title despite recent stumbles.

Bay Area baseball has delivered a stellar first half. It's only mid-July and there is already talk of a special October and, perhaps, the first Bay Bridge Series since 1989.

California could have four teams still playing into October. The two organizations in Northern California have set the tone.

"It'd be hard to find two teams in the same city doing as well as we are," said Giants right-hander Tim Hudson, who began his career with the A's. "It's really exciting for all of the fans from both sides of the bay. They've had the opportunity over the years to have some really fun teams to watch, World Series-caliber teams every year. New York can't say that, L.A. can't really say that. It's been fun."

Oakland, a major league-best 59-36 and the two-time defending AL West champion, produced a pair of six-game winning streaks behind its reliable starting pitching. And general manager Billy Beane pulled off a July 4 trade with the Cubs that brought Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to a deep rotation that lost Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to season-ending elbow injuries that required surgery.

"We could probably go seven deep," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Tommy Milone's in Triple-A right now and with the numbers he's put up, it means we're creating a lot of depth to withstand whatever could potentially happen coming up in the second half."

The Giants, winners of the 2010 and '12 World Series, missed the playoffs last year and hope they can get back on a roll like the team across the bay. At 52-43, they are one game behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, and Tim Lincecum has won four straight starts for the first time since April 2010.

"No question, the Giants have really established something here for a long period of time," Melvin said. "It's difficult to not only win a World Series, win two out of four, and be in the position they're in right now. It could be really exciting for the Bay Area."

     

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