By Jerry Feitelberg
Oakland- The Oakland A’s will start a three-game series with the New York Yankees beginning Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s and Yankees are both iconic franchises. Each franchise has a storied past. The Yankees, with 40 AL pennants and 27 World Series crowns, are seeking to add another pennant and championship to that list this year. The Yankees have the best record (83-43) in the American League and own a 9 and 1/2 game lead over the Tampa Bay Ray for the AL East title. The A’s are in second place in the AL West with a record of 71-53. The A’s are trail the Rays by 1 and 1/2 games in the race for the second Wild Card. The A’s, if they continue to play well, could catch the Indians and win the first Wild Card. They trail Cleveland by 2 and 1/2 games.
Anytime the Yankees are in Oakland, there are usually above average crowds in attendance. Both teams have a lot to play for. The Yankees want to have the best record so that they will have home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The A’s want to win to gain ground on Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
One of the great stories of this season has been the success of the Yankees on the field. They have had so many injuries to key players. Yet, they somehow have been able to have the best record in the AL. The replacement players have stepped up and done the job. They did make one acquisition in the off-season that has helped them immensely. D.J. LeMahaieu joined the Yankees after a stellar career with the Colorado Rockies. LeMahieu is leading the league in hitting, and if he wins the batting title, he will be the first player to have won the title in the American and National leagues.
The Yankees injury list is loaded with stars. Third baseman Miguel Andujar, who was second in the balloting for Rookie of the Year last year, is on the 60 day-IL and is out for the season. First baseman Greg Bird, Reliever Dellin Betances, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and starter Luis Severino are all on the 60-day IL. Severino may pitch again this year but not before September. The Yanks have four other players of note on the 10-day IL. Their DH, Edwin Encarnacion is out with a fractured right wrist. Aaron Hicks has a flexor strain in his right arm, and no date has been set for his return. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 home runs two years ago for Miami, has a PCL strain in his right knee. Stanton has missed most of the season, and he may be back this year. First baseman Luke Voit is out with a sports hernia. He might be back in late August.
Even with all those injuries, New York is still loaded with talent. The Yankees have four infielders that play like All-Stars. Shortstop Didi Gregorius, who missed significant time due to an arm injury that required Tommy John Surgery, is hitting.261 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs since coming back. LeMahuie is hitting .339 and has 21 dingers and 86 ribbies. Second baseman Glyber Torres, who share second base with LeMahuie, has a batting average of .282 and he had hit 29 out of the park and knocked in seventy-three. Gio Urshela, who was penciled in as a backup infielder, has made sitting him on the bench impossible. Urshela is hitting .336 and has homered 18 times. Mike Ford is playing first base in place of Luke Voit and Greg Bird.
The outfield is manned by Brett Gardner in center-field. Garner, who is 35, still has a lot of speed and is a dangerous hitter. His average is .254, and he has hit 17 homers and driven in 50. Right field is handled by Aaron Judge. Aaron, who is from Northern California, missed a lot of playing time this year due to injury. He is back now, and he is a home run threat every time he steps to the plate. Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman will be in the outfield depending on which pitcher the A’s choose to pitch.
The catching is shared by Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine. Sanchez is like Judge, He is a home run threat every time he comes up to hit. He is not the best defensive catcher in the league, but he has worked hard to improve. Austin Romine is the backup.
The Yankees starting rotation has not been as strong as it has been in the past. It has been a work in progress this year. The A’s will not see lefties James Paxton or CC Sabathia during the series. The Yankees will send Dominga German to the hill Tuesday night. German is 16-2 with an ERA of 3.96. He has won his last four starts. He beat Boston twice, and Baltimore and Toronto once. The Yanks will be facing the A’s, Homer Bailey. Bailey was outstanding last Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants. He went seven innings and allowed no runs and just two hits. He won his tenth of the year that day.
Lefty J.A.Happ pitches on Wednesday for New York. Happ is 10-7and has an ERA of 5.40. He has pitched at least five innings in each of his last four starts. His ERA is a very high 6.23, however. The A’s will have Mike Fiers (11-3, 3.46 ERA) on the mound. Fiers has the second-best ERA (2.52) among AL starters since April, 26th. He did give up four runs against Houston last Thursday. He did not figure in the decision.
On Thursday, Masahiro Tanaka goes for New York. Tanaka has been outstanding in his last two starts. He held the Blue Jays and the Indians to two runs and seven hits over 14 and 1/3rd innings of work. He won both starts. The A’s will counter with Tanner Roark. Roark went six innings and allowed two runs against the Astros last Friday. The A’s won the game in extra-innings.
The Yankees bullpen has been their strength this year. If their starters can give them six good innings of work, the Yanks’ bullpen usually closes the door for the win. Expect to see pitchers such as Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle. Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Nestor Cortes, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. Britton and Chapman are lefties. Britton, who used to be the Baltimore Orioles closer is now the eighth-inning set-up man. Chapman is now the closer. Chapman can hit speed up to 103 to 105 miles-per-hour on the speed gun.
The A’s will have their work cut out for them. They know the Yankees will be tough. They knew the Astros would be tough and they took three-out off-four from the team with the second-best record in the AL West.
Look for a good series with big crowds. It should be fun.