Moving Up: A’s, Chapman at their best in series-clinching rout of the Angels

By Morris Phillips

The A’s have their best record of the season to date, now can they sustain their success?

Oakland stymied the Angels for the second day in a row, slugging their way to a 12-3 win to capture three of the four-game set in Angel Stadium of Anaheim, giving the A’s a statement weekend in the AL Wild Card chase.

But the A’s finished the series without Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty, and continue to operate without closer Blake Treinen as well as suspended, staff ace Frankie Montas. In 14 of their next 22 games, they’ll face the first-place Astros and Twins, as well as the Rangers, currently in possession of the second wild card spot.

Given the adversity and the upcoming schedule, can the A’s continue their ascent? Sunday’s winning pitcher, Chris Bassitt, thinks so.

“It’s kind of absurd that we’re even in this position,” Bassitt said. “It just shows how good this team can be when we’re all healthy.”

Baseball-Reference’s Playoff Odds says yes, in that statistics-based simulation, the A’s are favored to over take the Indians and Rangers, and capture the second wild card spot with a modest–by recent AL playoff records–88-74 record. That simulation is heavily weighted on what the A’s have done in their previous 100 games, including a partial sample of their blistering 2018 finish. If so, the A’s will qualify for the second, consecutive season and most likely end up with a much better matchup at Tampa Bay, as compared to last season’s trip to Yankee Stadium.

The biggest sign the A’s are headed in the right direction? Their performances on the road have improved dramatically. They started the season by dropping 15 of their first 20 road contests. Since then, they’re 17-5 when traveling.

 

Oakland A’s podcast with Joey Friedman: A’s win four of last five games; Oakland just 1 1/2 out of the wild card; plus more

photo from mercurynews.com:  Jurickson Profar #23 congratulates Matt Olson #28 of the Oakland Athletics on his three run home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 28, 2019 in Anaheim, California

On the A’s podcast with Joey F:

#1 The A’s continue their winning ways after defeating the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night in a 4-0 shutout at the Big A in Anaheim the team now are 4-1 on the current road trip

#2 Oakland starter Brett Anderson pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball surrendering just two hits, two walks and striking out three.

#3 A’s closer Liam Hendricks shut the door on the Angels in the eighth and ninth innings pitching 1.1 innings and striking out two hitters.

#4 The A’s Matt Chapman not only noted for his great defense at third base hit his 20th home run on Saturday night

#5 Starting pitchers for game three of the series in Anaheim on Sunday: For Oakland Chris Bassitt (4-3 ERA 3.86) and for Los Angeles Andrew Heaney (1-1 ERA 4.99)

A’s podcast with Joey Friedman are heard each Sunday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Texas two-step becomes a nasty trip and fall as A’s lose both games of the doubleheader on Saturday

Tex Beltre
Beltre’s number was retired before game two began Photo: @Rangers

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Major League Baseball teams are totally unequipped to play doubleheaders in this new century. The doubleheader used to be a mainstay of the annual baseball schedule. My late father and I would deliberately plan to attend Cincinnati Reds games when doubleheaders were on the schedule. You bought one ticket and got to watch two games.

Then a few years ago, some bean counter in a Major League team’s front office figured out that his/her team was losing money by allowing fans to see two games for the price of one, and the traditional doubleheader died a sudden death. The era of the day-night doubleheader was born in order to squeeze every dime out the fans that can be had by every team in both leagues.

On Saturday, the A’s and Texas Rangers played a day-night doubleheader. The teams were rained out on April 13 and had a game to make up, so Saturday became the day the teams would play two games. It was the first doubleheader to be played in Arlington, Texas since September 30, 2012.

If you are the A’s, you hope for a sweep, will settle for a split and fear a being swept. Unfortunately for the Athletics, their worst fears came true on Saturday.

Game One

Tex game 1
Photo/Graphic: @Athletics

LHP Joe Palumbo made his Major League debut in the first game of the doubleheader. The A’s sent RHP Paul Blackburn to the hill for his first start of the 2019 season.

The Rangers jumped on Blackburn in the bottom of the first scoring three runs and taking a lead they would never give up. Texas put two more runs up on the board in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead over the A’s.

Oakland mounted a comeback in the fourth inning when Matt Olson hit his eighth home run of the season with Khris Davis on base. Later, Josh Phegley hit a double to drive in Chad Pinder and Ramon Laureano. The score was 5-4 with Texas leading as the game went the bottom of the fourth.

Texas put up another run on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning when Elvis Andrus hit his 12th double of the year driving Shin-Soo Chin home to score to give the Rangers a 6-4 lead.

The Rangers added four more runs in the home half of the fifth inning. The big blow came when Tim Federowicz hit a three-run home run that made the score 10-4 in favor of Texas.

Oakland would score one more time when Josh Phegley hit his eighth home run of the season over the left field wall. The score at that point was Texas 10, Oakland 5 which would ultimately be the final score.

Jeffery Springs (4-1) who came on in the fifth inning to relieve Palumbo was credited with the win. He pitched 3.0-innings giving up one run (earned) off two hits. Blackburn (0-1) took the loss for Oakland.

Game Two

Tex game 2
Photo/Graphic:@Athletics

If you hung around for game two, you are a true fan. The twin bill took over 10 hours to complete because the stadium had to be emptied before the ticket holders for game two were allowed to reenter. They did have a nice crowd of 39,514 on hand as the Rangers retired Adrian Beltre’s number 29 before the game began.

The A’s drew first blood in the game when Mark Canha hit his 10th homer of the season off Adrian Sampson into left-center field in the top of the fourth inning. It would be the only run the A’s would score in the contest.

Texas put their first runs in the scorebook in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jeff Mathis hit a single to left that sent Danny Santana home and Ronald Guzman to second. Delino DeShields then hit a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed Ronald Guzman to score. After five complete innings, Texas held a 2-1 lead.

The Rangers would score again in the bottom of the sixth inning. Danny Santana hit his second triple of the year driving Rougned Odor home to score the third and final run of the game for Texas. That was all the scoring the Rangers would need as they would win the game 3-1.

Adrian Sampson (5-3) was the winning pitcher as he won his first complete game in his major league career. Sampson gave up one run (earned) off four hits. He struck out seven while issuing only one walk.

Chris Bassitt (3-2) was hung with the loss. Bassitt gave up three runs (all earned) on five hits. He struck out five Rangers and walked two.

Up Next

The four-game series wraps up on Sunday at 12:05 PM PDT. The A’s will send Frankie Montas (7-2, 2.83) to the mound to stop the two-game losing streak. The Rangers will counter with Drew Smyly (1-4, 7.93). On paper, it would the advantage would go to the A’s.

 

 

A’s Thursday off day report: Preview of A’s-Mariners series starting Friday

By Jerry Feitelberg

The A’s return home after a successful 6-2 road trip. The A’s were beating the Tigers in one game that was suspended due to bad weather. That game will be completed when the Tigers play the A’s in September. The two losses on the trip happened when the A’s played the Mariners in Seattle.

The Mariners and A’s have met four times this season, and the M’s have won them all. The A’s lost the first two in Japan to open the season and the last two in Seattle on May 13th and 14th. The games in Seattle were close. The Mariners won on May 13th 6-5 even though the A’s hit five home runs in that game. They beat the A’s again on May 14th, 4-3. Since that time the A’s won three in Detroit and three in Cleveland.

The A’s have also moved up in the standings in the AL Central. Oakland ‘s record is 25-25, and they are in third place just 1/2 game behind the surprising Texas Rangers. Seattle, on the other hand, played well to start the season but have fallen on hard times. They currently reside in last place in the AL West with a record of 23-29. They have lost 3 in a row and are 3-7 in their previous 10 games.

The Mariners have placed several key players on the 10-day IL. They include second baseman Dee Gordon, first baseman Ryon Healy, pitcher King Felix Hernandez, and third baseman Kyle Seager.

The Mariners still have a potent lineup. First baseman Daniel Vogelbach, DH Edwin Encarnacion, outfielders Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana, and Mitch Haniger all have power, and all of them have hurt the A’s with their bats. Infielder Tim Beckham has also punished the A’s with his power.

The pitching matchups for the series will be the following. On Friday, Oakland will send Daniel Mengden (1-1 3.65 ERA) out to pitch. Mengden is 0-2 with an ERA of 5.89 in four career starts against the Mariners. The Mariners will counter with lefty Wade LeBlanc. LeBlanc, in his last outing against the Minnesota Twins, went 2 and 1/3rd innings and gave up seven hits and seven runs. LeBlanc missed five weeks due to a strained oblique. In two starts against the A’s last year, LeBlanc held the A’s scoreless for eleven innings.

Saturdays’ game will feature Mike Fiers (3-3, 5.05 ERA) going for his fourth win of the year. Fiers has an ERA of 2.53 over his last five starts, and that includes the no-hitter that he had against the Cincinnati Reds. Fiers is 2-2 with an ERA of 6.36 in 10 starts against Seattle. Rookie Yusei Kikuchi (3-1, ERA 3.43) will go for the M’s. Kikuchi is 2-0 with an ERA of 2.03 in his last four starts.

On Sunday, The A’s will have lefty Brett Anderson on the mound. Anderson (5-3, ERA 4.14)is returning to action after he left the game last Monday in Cleveland with a cervical strain. Anderson is 8-5 and has an ERA of 2.38 in 20 games against the M’s. Mike Leake goes for Seattle. Leake is 3-5 for the year and has an ERA of 4.73. Leake is 2-2 against Oakland in nine career starts.

The A’s are playing better as the offense has come alive and the pitching has been better. The A’s have seen improvement from Chris Bassitt, Mike Fiers, and Frankie Montas. Anderson has pitched well, and Mengden is still a work in progress.

Following the three-game series with Seattle, the A’s will face the LA Angels and then host the first-place Houston Astros.

 

Mariners nip the A’s 4-3 to sweep the 2-game series

photo from yahoosports.com: Seattle Mariners closing pitcher Roenis Elias reacts as stadium lights flash after the team’s baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Seattle. Elias earned the save as the Mariners won 4-3.

By Jerry Feitelberg

The Oakland  A’s road woes continued as they fell to the Seattle Mariners 4-3 in Seattle Tuesday night. The A’s, who were 1-8 on their last nine-game road trip, started this road trip 0-2. The A’s are off on Wednesday and will start a four-game set with the Tigers in Detroit before finishing the trip with three games with the Cleveland Indians.

Brett Anderson was on the mound for Oakland Tuesday night. Anderson gave the A’s six innings, and he allowed six hits and four runs. He was the losing pitcher, and his record dropped to 4-3. Mike Leake started for Seattle, and he picked up his third win of the year. Leake went 6 2/3 innings and allowed five hits and three runs (one earned).

The M’s put two on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Anderson gave up solo homers to Daniel Vogelbach and Tim Beckham.

The A’s tied the game in the top of the fifth. Leake walked Ramon Laureano and gave up a single to Robbie Grossman. Both runners advanced when Josh Phegley flew out to deep center field. Marcus Semien reached on Beckham’s throwing error, and that allowed Laureano and Grossman to score.

The game didn’t stay tied for long. With one out, Anderson walked J.P. Crawford. M’s centerfielder, Mitch Haniger, who loves to play against Oakland, hit his second home of the series to give the Mariners the lead 4-2.

The A’s scored a run in the top of the seventh. Stephen Piscotty led off with a double. Robbie Grossman singled to drive in Piscotty. The A’s trail 4-3.

The M’s brought in Roenis Elias to pitch with two-out in the seventh. Elias responded by getting the final seven outs of the game to preserve the win for Seattle.

The A’s drop to 19-24 while the M’s improve to 21-23.

Time of game was two hours and 37 minutes. 11,355 fans were in attendance.

Up Next: The A’s will have the day off on Wednesday before heading to Detroit and Comerica Park. Starting for the A’s on Thursday night Chris Bassitt (1-1, 2.55 ERA). The Tigers starter is yet to be determined.

Jerry Feitelberg is the Oakland A’s beat reporter for http://www.sportsradioservice.com

A’s score first, but can’t hold on to get the win in Steel City

Pit score
Graphic: @Athletics

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland Athletics shot out of the gate quickly on Saturday night in Pittsburgh, hanging three runs up on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. Khris Davis singled to right to drive Matt Chapman home to score. Kendrys Morales hit his first triple of the year to drive Davis home to score, and Morales would score the third Oakland run of the inning on a Stephen Piscotty  single to left field. That was a very promising start for the green and gold.

The Pirates put their first run up on the board in the home-half of the second inning when Josh Bell hit a Chris Bassitt 84 mph cutter over the right field wall.

Bell came back to haunt the A’s again in the bottom of the third inning with two out and Starling Marte on at first. Bell hit his eighth home run of the season over the center field wall off a 93 mph sinker that tied the game at 3-3.

The A’s retook the lead in the fifth inning when Khris Davis hit a single to center field that drove Matt Chapman home to score the fourth run of the contest for Oakland.

Pittsburgh broke this game open in the bottom of the seventh inning when they scored three runs. Kevin Newman hit his first triple of the season off Wendelken that drove in two runners on base to score and gave the Pirates a 5-4 lead. Francisco Cervelli then hit a 2-2 change up from Wendelken into left field that allowed Newman to score easily from third base. After seven complete innings, the Pirates held a 6-4 lead.

Pirates (15-15) focus

Pit bell hr
Josh Bell hits one of his two home runs Photo: @Pirates
  • Josh Bell was the star of the game for Pittsburgh. He hit two home runs, picked up three RBI and scored two runs. Bell is batting .291 for the Pirates.
  • Gregory Polanco went 2-for-5 for Pittsburgh on Saturday. He hit a double and scored a run for his team in the win.
  • Outfielder Bryan Reynolds had a good night for his team, going 2-for-3 at the plate. Reynolds also scored a run.
  • Michael Feliz picked up his first win of the season working in relief.
  • Felipe Vazquez recorded his ninth save of the year preserving the win for his team.

A’s (15-20) spotlight

Pit Bolt NBCS
Skye Bolt gets his first major league hit Photo: @NBCS
  • Matt Chapman had a 2-for-4 game scoring two runs. He hit a double and a triple in the game.
  • Khris Davis picked up two RBI and scored a run in his 2-for-4 night for Oakland. Davis played left field in the game because there is no designated hitter because this is a National League ballpark.
  • The A’s are hoping that this was a breakout game for Kendrys Morales who went 2-for-4 with the bat scoring a run and adding an RBI.
  • Skye Bolt, who was just called up to the majors, picked up his first major league hit in the game.
  • Starting pitcher Chris Bassitt did not figure into the final decision. The loss was charged to J.B. Wendelken (0-1) who pitched 1.0 innings giving up three runs (all earned) off four hits. He walked one and struck out one.

Up next

The third and final game of the series will be played on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 10:35 AM Bay Area time. Frankie Montas (4-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the hill for Oakland. The Pirates will counter with Jordan Lyles (2-1, 2.42 ERA).

A’s, Treinen swept and embarrassed in Toronto by the Blue Jays

By Morris Phillips

Last season, the A’s couldn’t get enough of the Blue Jays. This season? They would prefer to forget they ever took the field with those guys.

The A’s suffered a 5-4, 11-inning loss on Sunday, the culmination of being swept in consecutive weekends by Toronto (0-6), the ultimate getback after the A’s went 7-0 against the Blue Jay’s in 2018. What’s worse, the A’s blew a 4-1 lead in the 11th as closer Blake Treinen couldn’t close the door.

Brandon Drury’s three-run homer wiped out the A’s lead, and four batters later, Justin Smoak’s RBI single scoring Freddy Galvez ended it.

“Falling behind guys and giving up soft contact like that is just embarrassing on my end,” Treinen said. “The team scraps as well as it did to get runs late and then they put their faith in me to go out there and get three outs. I mean a leadoff hit is whatever, a guy goes across the plate it doesn’t matter, but then I just didn’t execute pitches and fell behind and lost some feel and it sucks. It really sucks.”

The A’s fell to 14-16 with the loss, four games off the pace of the division-leading Astros, who won 4-1 over the Indians Sunday night.

Chris Bassitt was impressive–and more expressive–in his second start, allowing a run in seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. With all the upheaval and inconsistency in the rotation, Bassitt appears to be stability after two, superior starts.

With his energy on the mound, along with the quality pitches, Bassitt carried the A’s for seven innings. J.B. Wendelken picked Bassitt up with a brisk eighth, and Joakim Soria gave up a couple of hits, but kept the game 1-1 in the ninth.

A weird vibe persisted because of the A’s aversion to being swept and their lack of offense–two singles and an Khris Davis double–through nine innings. Bassitt did his best to explain the team’s malaise that preceded the game’s unusual conclusion in the 10th and 11th.

“It was just we were all kind of sleepwalking a little bit,” Bassitt opined. “It happens. Everyone goes through this, but we obviously have to snap out of it.”

 

A’s get back into the win column by downing the Rangers 6-1

TEX score
Graphic: @NBCS

By Charlie O. Mallonee

Chris Bassitt made his 2019 season debut on the mound for the Oakland Athletics on Monday night and everything went Bassitt’s way. Bassitt worked five scoreless innings giving up just two hits while striking out seven Texas batters and walking four. That was good enough for him to earn his first win of the season.

Bassitt got some help from his friends in the Oakland bullpen. Ryan Dull who was just called up from Triple-A Las Vegas struck out two batters and allowed just one run in 1.1 innings of work in relief.

J.B. Wendelken, Joakim Soria, and Fernando Rodney combined to work 2.2 innings of scoreless relief to close out the game for Oakland to ensure the win for Bassitt.

The A’s scored first

Oakland put the first run up on the board when Stephen Piscotty hit his fourth home run of the season over the centerfield wall in the second inning.

Matt Chapman gave the A’s a 2-0 lead when he drove Josh Phegley home with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third inning.

The A’s added two more runs in the home half of the sixth and eighth innings to raise their final total to six runs.

The Rangers scored their only run in the top of the seventh inning.

In the spotlight

A’s (12-13)

Tex Rodney 2
Rodney in appearance #907 Photo: @Athletics
  • Stephen Piscotty had a 2-for-3 game that included a home run and three RBI. He extended his hitting streak against the Rangers to 15 games.
  • Chad Pinder went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the game. Pinder is batting .354 (17-for-48) in 17 games in the month of April.
  • Fernando Rodney passed Cy Young for 24th on the all-time list of pitching appearances by taking the mound for the 907th time in his career.
  • The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the A’s.

Texas (12-9)

  • Shin-Soo Chin has reached base safely in the first inning of the last 10 games he has been the Texas leadoff hitter.
  • Danny Santana has a hit in six of his first eight games with the Rangers since being called up from Triple-A on April 13.
  • Mike Minor (2-2) took the loss working six innings giving up four runs (all earned) off four hits including one home run. He struck out four and walked three.

Up Next

Tuesday night the Rangers will send RHP Lance Lynn (2-1, 4.44) to the hill to face off against Frankie Montas (3-1, 2.70). The first pitch is scheduled for 7:07 PM.

A’s can’t survive a night of bullpenning and home runs; Rays win 7-5

Tampa Bay Jake Bauers
Jake Bauers hit the game-winning 3-run home run for the Rays Photo: @RaysBaseball

By Charlie O. Mallonee

If the Tampa Bay Rays were in the National League, they would be in the fight for a spot in the Wild Card game. They are not a walkover team anymore. The Rays have an 81-66 record this season. Unfortunately for the Rays and their fans, they play in the American League East where the Boston Red Sox have clinched the division with a 102-47 record to date, and the Yankees are in second place with a 91-57 record.

The Rays brought their “A game” on Saturday night as they handed the A’s their second loss on this six-game road trip 7-5. The game featured 21 hits, 4 home runs, 14 runners left on base, 15 strikeouts and 12 pitching changes over 3 hours and 19 minutes.

The loss was very costly for the A’s in their chase for the AL West crown and the home field advantage in AL Wild Card Game. The Astros beat the D-Backs 10-4 on Saturday and increased their lead over the A’s to 3.5 games. The A’s elimination number is now 11.

The A’s (90-59) had the opportunity to move within a half-game of the Yanks for the top Wild Card slot because the Bombers lost to the Blue Jays 8-7 on Saturday. Because Oakland lost, they remain 1.5 games behind New York in the second Wild Card spot.

More Bullpening
It was another bullpenning game for the A’s. Liam Hendriks was “the opener” on the mound for Oakland. He pitched one inning, allowing one hit and striking out one.

Dean Kiekhefer took over in the second inning and things did not go well for him. He gave up two runs (both earned) on three hits. The big blow came when Brandon Lowe hit a two-run homer with one on and no outs. Ryan Dull had to come in to close out the inning.

Chris Bassitt was the “featured pitcher” of the game. He worked 3.0 innings giving up one run (earned) off two hits. He struck out three Rays and walked two.

Yusmeiro Petit was the next man up. Petit gave up a run (earned) off one hit.

The brightest spot of the night for the A’s may have been the performance of reliever Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning of the game. Rodney has really struggled recently but not in this game. Rodney gave up no runs while he struck out one and walked one.

Jeurys Familia would have rather stayed in the hotel. Familia was brought in to pitch the eighth inning. He only gave up one hit, but it was a go-ahead three-run homer by Jake Bauers that ultimately proved to be the game-winning hit. Familia (8-6) was tagged with the loss.

A’s with the bat

  • Matt Chapman went 3-for-5 and hit his 23rd home run of the season in the ninth inning off Sergio Romo.
  • The other Matt (Olson) had a 2-for-3 night at the plate and he hit his 27th homer of the year in this game.
  • Marcus Semien had a 2-for-4 night including a run scored. He was also involved in an incident with the home plate umpire that eventually caused A’s manager Bob Melvin to get ejected.

Rays’ notes

Tampa Bay Kelvin Kiermeier
The Rays Kevin Kiermaier hit a key triple in the game Photo: @RaysBaseball
  • The Rays went bullpening as well on Saturday. Ryne Stanek was the opener and then Yonny Chirinos was “the featured pitcher.” He lasted 5.1 innings.
  • Andrew Kittredge (2-2) was the eventual winner of the game.
  • Bauers not only hit a home run, he recorded four RBIs in the game.
  • Brandon Lowe had two RBIs, two runs scored in addition to his home run.
  • Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple and posted two RBIs

Up next

The A’s will send RHP Mike Fiers (12-6, 3.29 ERA) to the mound to face the Rays’ RHP Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.31 ERA) in the Sunday finale at 10:10 AM PDT.

Don’t worry about tomorrow: A’s lose Manaea, but keep winning in Minnesota, bump Twins 6-2

By Morris Phillips

The A’s lost their indispensable starting pitcher, but they held on to their home run stroke on Sunday afternoon.

The day started with the news that Sean Manaea, the team’s wins leader with a 12-9 record, will miss his next start on Thursday and go on the disabled list with shoulder impingement, more popularly described as tightness in his shoulder.  Manaea has made 27 starts this season without missing a turn, and given that he returns in the next two weeks, is still on track to better his career-high 29 starts set last year. But the A’s lose their only remaining season-opening starter just as the schedule hits its most demanding stretch with the team scheduled to play the next 10 days without a break.

And the teams response to the sour news on the eve of their final series against AL West-leading Houston?

Another series victory–this one high in the degree of difficulty–over the Twins with a 6-2 win featuring four home runs, two off the bat of Matt Chapman. The A’s have dropped just one series since mid-June, and they pulled this one out by winning three straight days at Target Field after dropping the opener on Thursday.

“We’ve been hit with a lot of adversity and we’ve been able to keep pushing forward and finding ways to win, having different guys step up,” Chapman said of the day’s events.

If the A’s have an approach to such situations, it’s simple: grab a bat and swing. The four home runs gave the team a major league-leading 114 homers in road contests (65 games). Three of the four home runs came off Twins’ reliever Matt Magill, and none from the game’s biggest home run hitter, Khris Davis. But even without Davis weighing in (the slugger was 1 for 5 on Sunday with three strikeouts) the A’s got plenty from red-hot sluggers Chapman and Stephen Piscotty, who led off the sixth inning with a shot that gave the A’s a 4-1 lead.

Jed Lowrie and Chapman hit back-to-back homers in the seventh to finish Magill and the scoring for the afternoon. The A’s escaped the series without taxing their bullpen, and that’s even with spot starter Chris Bassitt being lifted with two outs in the fifth inning. Manager Bob Melvin opted to use Blake Treinen in the ninth with a four-run lead and the closer did his part, keeping his ERA below one (0.97).

Bassitt was recalled from Nashville to make the start, which was originally part of a plan to buy an extra day for each member of the starting rotation. While Bassitt survived, he struggled with his command, throwing a bunch of pitches to get into the fifth, and issuing three walks. But Bassitt got some big outs, allowed just one run, and was followed by five relievers, none throwing more than one inning, in keeping with the plan for the A’s to lean heavily on its stocked bullpen.

Now with Manaea disabled, Bassitt will likely stick around with Frankie Montas returning to the rotation, and Daniel Mengden joining the club as a long reliever initially. It’s not the best of situations having the rotation so unsettled with the next seven games against the Astros and Mariners, but the A’s won’t hesitate to pull any pitcher at any juncture if he struggles.

The A’s improved to 45-16 in their last 61 games that have transformed their season, and moved a season-high 27 games above .500. All the winning, and league-leading performers have Oakland in line for a playoff appearance, but catching either the Yankees or Astros are essential to keeping the club out of a win-or-go-home playoff appearance on the road. The A’s have opened a significant, five-game gap over the Mariners, but that could change with the upcoming series at home against Seattle. For now, the club will turn its attention to the World Champs in the last three of 19 meetings.

“There are some implications. It’s the last time we play each other head-to-head, and we’re neck-and-neck for first place in the division,” Chapman said, deftly employing back-to-back anatomical descriptions of the critical, upcoming series.

Houston’s Gerrit Cole faces Oakland’s Brett Anderson in the opener on Monday. All three Houston starters scheduled have double-digit win totals, the three A’s starters–including Edwin Jackson and Trevor Cahill–have five wins or less.