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Texas Rangers Vs. Oakland Athletics Preview: Q&A With Athletics Nation

Tyler Bleszinski, founder of Athletics Nation and SB Nation, stops by to help us preview the brief two-game series between the Rangers and the A's.

April 18, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics celebrate their 6-0 victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
April 18, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics celebrate their 6-0 victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

After being swept by the Kansas City Royals, the Texas Rangers welcome the second-place Oakland Athletics to Arlington as they look to return back to their winning ways. To help us preview this series, we've brought in Tyler Bleszinski of Athletics Nation for some Oakland-oriented insight.

What were the expectations surrounding the A's this season? Is it a bit of a surprise that Oakland is over .500 at this point of the season?

I'm not sure there were any expectations on this team this year. Many people thought 70 wins maximum given all the unknowns. I was pretty bullish on the team if only because I thought the pitching was going to be good. The question marks to me with the A's, as it has been over the last three or four seasons was the offense and the health of the team. The offense has literally been just good enough to support the pitching so far and the team seemingly has more pop than in seasons past with guys like Cespedes and Reddick giving the team some unexpected HR power.

The A's received plenty of negative publicity over the winter when Billy Beane went into firesale mode again, but how are the two major trades (Andrew Bailey, Gio Gonzalez) working out for Oakland so far?

Bailey has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox and Reddick has nine home runs so far and looks like he could be the A's best hitter. While Gio Gonzalez is an incredible starting pitcher, the A's got a lot of talent back in return with Tommy Millone already being a part of the A's rotation and Brad Peacock likely soon to follow. A.J. Cole looks like he could be the best of the group and Derek Norris has been tearing it up at Triple-A and will likely become the A's starting catcher sooner rather than later. Beane got a lot of quality for two good pitchers (one of them being excessively fragile).

Rangers fans know a bit about Brandon McCarthy, but what's been the reason for his success since leaving Texas? What are the signs that he's on that Rangers fans should be looking for Thursday?

McCarthy isn't the same power pitcher he once was. He's much more move around the zone and look for excellent control. He had an injury issue but then came back and struck out a season-high 10 in his last game in which he was outstanding. He's started using his curveball a lot more of late and we'll see if that continues in Texas.

Do you expect the A's to attack Josh Hamilton, or will they likely pitch around him and make others in the lineup beat them? Seems as though most managers should be doing the old unintentional-intentional walk, since Hamilton swings so much.

Hamilton seems like a tough guy to pitch around simply because the Rangers lineup is so very stacked. But I tend to agree with you in that Hamilton looks like a guy who should be avoided right now.

Assuming the A's aren't contending this year, who do you expect they'll be fielding offers on in July, and when do you expect them to reasonably contend?

Billy Beane always says that he's always entertaining offers so I don't think it will be only in July. I don't think Kurt Suzuki finishes the year with the A's simply because the A's have a few talented catchers waiting in the wings. Clearly Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes are likely going to be dealt if Beane can find a taker. And if the A's aren't contending come July and Manny Ramirez comes back to hit like the Manny of old, expect to see Manny traded.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.