Photo credit: @Athletics
By Jerry Feitelberg
The A’s will return home after a splitting a six-game road trip against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. The A’s had an opportunity to gain ground on the New York Yankees for the first spot in the AL Wild Card race. The Yankees lost to Toronto on Saturday and Sunday, and had the A’s beaten the Rays on those days, they would have found themselves in the first spot. Unfortunately the A’s lost to the Rays on Saturday and Sunday. The A’s own a record of 90-60 for the year and have 12 games left to pass the Yanks. They fell 4.5 games behind the Houston Astros for first place in the AL Division, and it is doubtful that the A’s would be able to catch them.
The goal for Bob Melvin and the surprising and swinging A’s is to win every one of the 12 games remaining on the schedule. That task will not be easy as they will play the Angels six times–three at home and three on the road in Anaheim. They finish the home season with three against the Minnesota Twins and go on the road for the final six games. The first three road games are in Seattle, and the last three will be in Anaheim.
The A’s are going to need for the offense and the bullpen to carry the load. The A’s starting rotation has been a work in progress all season. Four of their pitchers have had Tommy John surgery. Starters Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson have spent a couple of stints on the DL.
The A’s have resorted to “bullpenning” to fill the gap in the rotation. Reliever Liam Hendriks has been used to pitch the first inning, and A’s manager Bob Melvin brings in a pitcher such as Daniel Mengden or Chris Bassitt to go at least four or five innings and then turns the game over to the bullpen. Right now the rotation consists of Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Cahill is going to miss a start due to an irritation in his throwing arm. The A’s are hopeful that will be able to make two starts before the end of the season. The other two spots are being bullpenned.
The A’s resume play with a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum. The Angels won five of the first seven games played between the two clubs. The A’s won the last two series played and are 6-7 against LAA for the year.
The Angels, managed by Mike Scioscia, also had their pitching rotation ravaged by injuries. Garrett Richards, Blake Wood, Keynan Middleton, and J.C. Ramirez are all lost for the season and have undergone Tommy John surgery. Third baseman Zack Cozart and first baseman Albert Pujols will not play again this year. Cozart had shoulder surgery and Pujols, who will be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame five years after retirement, had knee surgery.
The Angels’ sensational rookie sensation, Shonei Ohtani, probably will not pitch again this year. He is also a candidate for Tommy John surgery. However, he is still playing as he is having a wonderful year at the plate as a hitter. His batting average is .290 with 20 home runs and 55 RBIs. His OPS is .956.
The Angels, while decimated by injury to their pitching and position player, would love nothing better than to play spoilers. They have several players in the lineup that can do damage. Two-time MVP, Mike Trout, lead the Angel offense. Trout is having another excellent season and is a candidate for the MVP honor. He is hitting .318 with 34 homers and 70 RBIs. His OPS is an astounding 1.091. Trout is just 27 years old. Justin Upton has hit 30 dingers, and he has knocked in 84. He is hitting .263. The other outfielder, Kole Calhoun, is having a down year with an average of just .214 but he does have power as he homered 19 times and had driven in 57. The only infielder that fans might know is shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
On Tuesday night, the A’s will send Liam Hendriks to the hill to pitch the first inning. Hendriks has pitched very well in this role as he has allowed just two hits and one run in four appearances. Mengden or Bassitt will come in to start the second inning. The Angels will counter with lefty Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs will be making his first appearance since August 11th when he went on the DL. Skaggs is 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA against the A’s in eight career starts.
On Wednesday, The A’s lefty Brett Anderson will try to return to form. In his last two starts, he has allowed nine runs on 14 hits in just six innings of work. Righty Felix Pena will handle the pitching chores for LAA. In his last eight starts, Pena has a 3.75 ERA and has gone at least six innings in each of his previous six starts.
On Thursday, The A’s Edwin Jackson will be seeking his sixth win the campaign. Since his recall from the minors, Jackson has been a pleasant surprise. His record is 5-3, and the A’s have won 12 of his 15 starts. The Angels will counter with Matt Shoemaker. Since coming off the DL on September 3rd, he has a 3.68 ERA in the three starts he made for LAA.
The A’s know what’s at stake. They have to keep winning if they hope to pass New York. The Yanks have six remaining against Boston, and the Red Sox could help the A’s by beating the Yanks. If the A’s pass the Yanks, they will host the one-game playoff at the Coliseum. If not, they will head to the Big Apple and face the Yanks in Yankee Stadium. The Yanks have built their lineup to take advantage of the dimension down the right field line and the short porch in right field. The A’s will be playing in front of a very hostile crowd, and they cannot let the jitters get to them.