Preview of the A’s series with the Houston Astros

Oakland A’s starter Chris Bassitt whose been on a role starts for the A’s on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Field in Houston (AP file photo)

By Jerry Feitelberg

The Oakland A’s are on their way to the state of Texas to face the Astros and Rangers. The three-game series with Houston begins on Tuesday at 5:05 pm from Minute Maid Park. The A’s then go to Arlington for three more before the annual All-Star Game.

The A’s are having a hard time winning baseball games these days. They have lost ten of the last sixteen played. They lost series to the Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and Red Sox The A’s fell to second place in the AL West, 3and 1/2 games behind Houston.

They lost two out of three to Boston last weekend. All three games were decided by one run. The A’ lost 3-2 in ten on Friday night, won 7-6 in 12 on Saturday and lost a heartbreaker 1-0 Sunday. The A’s have had their chances but have not been able to get hits when needed to get the runs needed to win on the board.

They have a chance to reverse things the next six days. It will not be easy when they face the Astros in Houston. The Astros are 7-3 against the A’s this year. The Rangers, in last place in the AL West, have not rolled over for Oakland. The Rangers split the four-game series with the A’s in Arlington took two out of three last week in Oakland.

On Tuesday, the A’s will send their ace, Chris Bassitt, to the mound. Bassitt is 9-2 with a 3.04 ERA. Lefty Framber Valdez will oppose him. Many A’s fans were furious that Bassitt was not picked to play in the All-Star game a week from tomorrow in Denver. Sean Manaea will pitch on Wednesday. His opponent will be Luis Garcia. Frankie Montas will go on Thursday. Lance McCullers, Jr. goes for Houston.

The A’s pitchers will have their hands full with the Houston lineup. Alex Bregman, Houston’s slugging third baseman, is on the 10-day IL and will not be available. Houston still has players that can do damage. Second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Yuli Guriel all are playing well. The Houston DH, Yordano Alvarez, is not an easy out. Michael Brantley is a hitting machine. The A’s cannot take Myles Straw or Kyle Tucker lightly.

The A’s are going to find a way to get their offense going. They miss their leadoff hitter, Mark Canha. Canha is on the 10-day IL with a hip injury. He may not be available until after the All-Star break. His presence in the lineup is missed. The A’s will need Matt Chapman, Ramon Laureano, Seth Brown, Stephen Piscotty, Elvis Andrus, and Matt Olson to come through with big hits.

Olson will be the A’s only player to participate in this year’s All-Star game. The A’s DH Mitch Moreland is also on the 10-day IL. There is speculation that the A’s will be active in the trade market before the June 30th trade deadline. There are rumors that they might be interested in acquiring Minnesota’s DH, Nelson Cruz. Another player of interest is the Rangers’ right fielder, Joey Gallo.

The Rangers are paying Gallo $6.2 million this season. Gallo has one more year of arbitration and will be a free agent after the 2022 season. He could play right field for the A’s or be used as a left-handed bat in the DH slot.

The A’s do not want to make the playoffs as a Wild Card. Major League Baseball has gone back to the format before the 2020 season. There will be three division champions and two wild cards. There will be a game-playoff between the two wild card teams. The A’s have not fared well in those games. They hosted the 2019 Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The outcome was a loss.

If the A’s are to gain ground against Houston, they have to take two out of three. They would cut the deficit to 2 and 1/2 games. A three-game sweep would leave them just 1/2 game behind. However, if the Astros sweep them, they will be six and 1/2 games behind. A’s manager Bob Melvin will have his troops ready. They know the importance of the next two series—the A’s need to make a statement this week. They will be able to enjoy the four-day break.

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