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Oakland A's vs. New York Yankees series preview: A's must keep Yankees bats quiet

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The New York Yankees (17-22) visit the Oakland Athletics (19-22) for four games at the Oakland Coliseum.

Starlin Castro slams his helmet after striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Starlin Castro slams his helmet after striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the Oakland A's last saw the Yankees exactly one month ago, the Yankees were at 5-6, down three games in the AL East. The Yankees have since gone 12-16, including the three-game A's sweep at Yankee Stadium, and are in last place trailing the Orioles by 7.5.

The Yankees have also been less prodigious base stealers; while they had 13 steals in the first 11 games, they've only had 12 in their last 18. In the last 30 days, that's good for 9th best in the AL.

The last 30 days have been very unkind to the Yankees offense, hitting 232/.293/.363 in that period for an AL-worst 78 wRC+ and 25 home runs. For the season, the A's have actually passed the Yankees on offense, ranking in 11th with a 92 wRC+ against New York's 14th place at 85.

Some of it is that the Yankees are missing Alex Rodriguez, who could be activated from a hamstring injury as soon as Saturday. The Yankees are just underperforming in a way that would have caused George Steinbrenner to cycle through managers and coaches.

But gone are the days of George Steinbrenner demanding action. Instead, Hal Steinbrenner is preaching patience, writes Tyler Kepner for the New York Times. In the meantime, the A's will try to keep New York's faltering offense quiet in this four-game set at the Oakland Coliseum.

Probable pitching matchups and broadcast schedule

The Yankees will get left-hander CC Sabathia back from the disabled list for this series, and the A's will also face Masahiro Tanaka for the first time. The two repeat customers are Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.

Game times jump around, with a 6:35 start on Friday for Grease-themed fireworks. There is also a dual event advisory for Thursday night with a recommendation to arrive early or take transit; "The Who" are playing at Oracle Arena at 6:30. Parking lots will be open at 3:30 and the cost is $30.

Time (PT) TV New York Oakland Coliseum promotions
Thu. 7:05 PM CSNCA RHP Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.70) RHP Kendall Graveman (1-5, 5.84)
Fri. 6:35 PM CSNCA LHP CC Sabathia (2-2, 3.81) RHP Sonny Gray (3-4, 5.84) Grease Fireworks
Sat. 1:05 PM CSNCA RHP Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 3.51) LHP Sean Manaea (1-1, 7.91)
Sun. 1:05 PM CSNCA RHP Michael Pineda (1-5, 6.60) RHP Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.38) Scout Day (special ticket)
Thursday: Ivan Nova vs. Kendall Graveman

Nova pitched an inning in relief against the A's, getting three quick outs in six pitches on April 20. This will be his third start of the year. In two starts, he has a 1.74 ERA with five strikeouts, two walks, and two home runs allowed, but he has only reached 81 pitches this year.

Graveman tossed 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in New York, striking out eight and walking three. He did allow a home run to Didi Gregorius, but it was otherwise his best start of the year.

Friday: CC Sabathia vs. Sonny Gray

Sabathia last pitched on May 4 and did not make any rehab appearances after going on the disabled list with a groin strain. Before hitting the DL, Sabathia threw his best start of the year against the Orioles, striking out six and walking two in seven scoreless innings.

Gray will hope that whatever he found late in Sunday's contest against the Rays continues into Friday's start against New York. He did not pitch against the Yankees last month.

Saturday: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Sean Manaea

Tanaka is coming off his worst start of the year, pitching just five innings against the White Sox and allowing four runs. That's back-to-back starts now where he has allowed at least four runs.

Manaea will be wondering whether Alex Rodriguez will be activated for Saturday, as Rodriguez owns a .267/.353/.667 (174 wRC+) batting line in 34 plate appearances with three home runs against left-handers. Despite Rodriguez's success, the Yankees overall are .236/.304/.355 against left-handers, an 81 wRC+ that is 13th in the AL.

Sunday: Michael Pineda vs. Jesse Hahn

Pineda threw a quality start in New York's 2-3 loss to the Athletics last month, allowing two runs in six innings while striking out seven and walking one. He's going through a rough patch, having allowed a home run in each of his last three starts, and at least five runs in his last two.

Bullpens

The Yankees are riding with eight relievers for Thursday's contest pending the activation of CC Sabathia for Friday. Manager Joe Girardi has taken to a rote protection of leads by using Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. The only reliever struggling right now is Chasen Shreve, but even he is on a good stretch. Shreve owns a 2.08 ERA this May.

For the A's, the blowout win on Wednesday gave the top of the line bullpen a break, with Fernando Rodriguez continuing his elite multi-inning work to hold the Rangers scoreless after entering the game with a 4-1 lead.

Yankees bullpen Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA FIP 18-May 17-May 16-May 15-May 14-May 13-May
Aroldis Chapman L 5.0 1.80 1.29 13 16 20
Andrew Miller L 16.2 1.08 1.29 18 13 13
Dellin Betances R 18.1 2.45 2.11 31 23 21
Chasen Shreve L 17.0 3.71 5.91 38 35
Kirby Yates R 15.1 1.76 2.37 10 9 23
Nick Goody R 9.0 2.00 2.53 18 37
James Pazos L -- -- -- 24
Luis Cessa R 2.0 4.50 7.59 100
A's bullpen Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA FIP 18-May 17-May 16-May 15-May 14-May 13-May
Ryan Madson R 18.2 1.93 3.57 17 11 4 21
Sean Doolittle L 16.1 3.31 3.95 16 4 12
John Axford R 17.0 3.18 3.85 17 15
Ryan Dull R 20.2 3.48 4.01 24
Fernando Rodriguez R 23.1 1.54 2.62 19 23
Marc Rzepczynski L 13.1 4.05 3.99 21
Andrew Triggs R 8.0 3.38 2.46 8 32