(by Billy Frijoles)
Welcome to another edition of meaningful September A's baseball. I'll be your nervous overreactive host for the evening, as the A's take on the Texas Rangers in the first of 4 games in Arlington. Like the past 3 series before this, the importance of this matchup cannot be overstated. The A's maintain a 2.5 game lead over the Angels for WC2, stand 1 game back from the Orioles in WC1, and are 4 games back of the division. If the A's can take this series and handle the Mariners at home, the final 3 game series against the Rangers will be for all the marbles. Of course, taking 3 out of 4 in Arlington is easier said than done.
The A's are coming off of a knock down, drag out, heavyweight fight against the New York Yankees, with all three games decided by one run. There's no need to further recap that series, except to quote former A's manager Tony La Russa: "If you're only going to win one of three, win the last one."
Oakland sends Dan Straily to the mound, one of the 17 apparently over-exuberant rookies on this A's squad. He faces Derek Holland, who held the Angels to 2 runs over 7 innings in his last start, and is 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings over his last three starts. However the good news is he apparently eats bad Tex-Mex before his home starts; for the season Holland is 5-4 with a 5.12 ERA at the Ballpark in Arlington. Straily's last start was 8 days ago, and he lasted only 4 2/3 innings in a loss to Baltimore. However, he has been stellar on the road, 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
6 or 7 innings from Straily would be a welcome relief to an A's bullpen that has been severely taxed over the past week. The A's did pick up another reliever off the proverbial scrap heap in Jeremy Accardo. Accardo may get into this game if the starters continue their trend of lasting less than 5 innings; ideally, he will stay in the 'pen.
The A's are certainly hoping that Chris Carter has busted out of his slump with his mammoth home run Saturday in NY. I imagine he will enjoy hitting in the stadium where he made his 2012 debut and announced the arrival of the Burninator (2 home runs in his first 2 games). He and Brandon Moss are both in the lineup, but Moss gets a break from 1B after some crushing errors in the Yankees series. Josh Reddick moves down to the 7th spot in the order, in a desperate move to get him back on track offensively and support the rookie starters.
Unfortunately, It just so happens that the A's take on the AL's best at the same time when the other AL playoff contenders get to take a breather: The Tigers get to feast on the Royals, the White Sox get the cush assignment against the Indians, the Orioles get to face the Blue Jays, the Yankees get to rest up against the Twins, and the Angels have the Mariners to assist them in their playoff chase.
Oh well, no one ever said it would be easy. The A's still control their destiny. Let's Go Oakland!