Who would've thought that the 2013 race for the AL West crown could come close to the excitement of 2012? Even though it's not happening quite as quickly or dramatically, there's more back-and-forth this year, and even though we've seen plenty of action, it seems like the race is still gearing up for an epic finish.
On September 2, 2012, the A's were even hotter than they are right now. They were riding a nine-game win streak and sat three games behind Texas. Today, the A's have taken six of their last seven games against the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays. In other words, they just dominated two of the American League's best teams.
Today, Dan Straily (7-7, 4.41 ERA) takes on the Rangers' Derek Holland (9-6, 3.00 ERA). It's probably the biggest start of Straily's still-young career, but he's beaten this Texas team before, and in impressive fashion. On May 21, Straily went into Rangers Ballpark and threw seven innings of two-hit, shutout baseball in which he didn't walk a batter. He's certainly capable of another performance like that, especially at home in Oakland, but he's probably not going to win this game by himself — the A's offense, unpredictable as of late, is going to have to do its part as well.
After putting up 8, 6, 14, and 6 runs in four games against the Tigers and some of the best pitching in baseball (Sanchez, Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer), the A's managed a sweep against the Rays despite scoring only 11 runs on the series, many of which came in the late innings of games in which the A's already led. What I'm trying to say is that the three games of the Rays were won with pitching, with Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, and AJ Griffin turning in performances that ranged from very good to superb. This series, Straily, Parker, and Colon have the advantage of having Brett Anderson waiting in the bullpen, ready to make a de facto spot start in case of the actual starter struggling. Anderson is probably stretched out enough to throw four innings, meaning that the A's bullpen has a lot of flexibility moving forward.
And here's the Michael Choice is making his major league debut today, batting ninth and DHing. This year in Sacramento, he put up a line of .302/.390/.445 with a wOBA of .378. He hit 14 home runs, too. It's going to be interesting to get a look at a guy who's expected to be a contributor for the A's in the very near future, and moreover, how he responds to the pressure of making his MLB debut in an early-September game against the Rangers.
Here we go! I'm ready for some September baseball at its finest. Bob Melvin is going with an all-righty lineup against the left-handed Holland, with Nate Freiman playing first base, Choice DHing, and Kurt Suzuki catching.
Here are the lineups:
1:05pm Rangers (D. Holland - L) @ Athletics (D. Straily - R)