With their win over the Tigers on Wednesday night, the Oakland Athletics moved to a season-best five games over .500. Overall they've won nine of their last 11, and they're playing .583 ball for the month of June. For a team that's endured three straight last-place finishes, this is indeed a welcome development. 

The question, of course, is whether Oakland's relevance through the first half of the season can yield down-the-stretch contention. To get an idea of that, let's turn to the SportsLine Projection Model. Right now it projects the A's for:

  • 85 wins
  • Less than a 1.0 percent chance of winning the AL West;
  • A 10.0 percent chance of making the postseason.

These projections change slightly from day to day based on game results, but that's a snapshot of Oakland's situation heading into Thursday's slate. It feels about right. The Astros are heavy favorites to win the division, and the AL East runner-up -- i.e., the Yankees or Red Sox -- will almost certainly claim the top wild-card berth in the AL. That means the A's only realistic shot at making the postseason is to run down the Mariners for that second wild-card spot. They trail the M's by seven games at the moment, and Seattle projects as a slightly better team moving forward. So the odds are somewhat long for Bob Melvin's squad. 

So what's the road forward? "They have tremendous power. They can score runs in a hurry," CBS Sports HQ MLB analyst Jim Bowden says of Oakland (video above). "Now, the question for the A's is can they pitch." 

Indeed, the A's rank fifth in the AL in runs scored and fifth in home runs, and that's despite playing their home games in a ballpark that suppresses offense. On the other side, the A's rank 10th in the AL with a rotation ERA of 4.50 and ninth in rotation FIP. That's a concern, especially when you're tasked with making up seven games in the standings over half a season. Part of the problem is health. At this writing, the A's have on the disabled list Trevor Cahill, Andrew Triggs, Brett Anderson, Daniel Mengden, and Daniel Gossett. (And that's to say nothing of Jharel Cotton, who's out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery during spring training.) Anderson is out on rehab assignment, and getting a handful of those guys back on the active roster should help matters. 

That said, if the A's are serious about relevant baseball in August and September, outside help may be needed as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. "Don't underestimate Billy Beane and David Forst in Oakland," Bowden says. "Remember, this is the tandem that traded for [Jon] Lester and [Jeff] Samardzija ... Don't count out the A's buying at the deadline and not selling --  and buying pitching."

On CBS Sports HQ, Bowden recently name-checked four starters who figure to be available via trade, and now the Mets are poised to make available their dual aces. The A's may need to make such a splash if they're going to surge while playing one of the tougher remaining schedules in the AL. Consider them a team to watch as late July approaches.