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Open Thread: Game 126 - Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays

Good morning Athletics Nations! Today's game will be the rubber match of both this current series against Tampa Bay, and also the entire season series against the Rays. After splitting the first two games in this 3-game set, the two teams are knotted up at 4-4 this year. More importantly, they are presently separated by just 1.5 games in the Wild Card standings.

Brandon McCarthy will take the hill for Oakland. This his second fourth start since returning from the disabled list, and the A's hope that it goes better than the first last one did. Facing the Twins on Monday, McCarthy allowed six runs on ten hits while failing to make it out of the 4th inning. The good news is that he is yet to put up back-to-back clunkers this year, so I'm picking the Original Brandon as a prime candidate for a bounce-back performance.

Tampa Bay counters with defending Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. Honestly, I don't really get Hellickson. I guess you have to watch him every week to appreciate him or something. All I have are his stats: He doesn't strike out enough guys, he walks too many, and he gives up tons of home runs. Due to his consistently inefficient pitch counts, he doesn't work deep into ballgames, either; he's averaging only 5.8 innings per start in 2012. He also allows line drives at an above-average clip, and doesn't induce a lot of grounders. He's a fly ball pitcher with questionable control who can't keep the ball in the park and has no ability to miss bats. Despite all of that, he's good. Somehow. I don't know how, I just accept it. The results speak for themselves (career ERA+ of 120); he's already got the hardware (ROY last year); and he seems to be universally respected around the Majors. So, I accept that Hellickson is probably good, but it doesn't stop me from getting excited about facing him. There's no reason why the A's can't draw a few walks and hit a couple of dingers off this guy. Make it happen, fellas!

Josh Reddick finally exits the #3 spot in the lineup, with his current slump dropping him down to 6th in the order. I don't think that a single person on AN will disagree with that move. Hopefully a little shake-up will help get Reddick out of his funk. We love you, Josh! Theth Thmith hits cleanup, and Melvin fields his most symmetrical L/R lineup ever. (S/L/R/L/R/L/R/L/S).