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Athletics vs Rangers: Series Preview #5

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday afternoon against the Astros, the rain came on Sunday to usher the talented team from Houston out of the Bay Area and allowed the players on the A’s to spend an extra day thinking about what they did wrong throughout the entirety of the shortened two-game series. Rain has the ability to wash away unsightly dirt and filth, the world emerging brighter and crisper the day after the rain moves on, and during their rain-induced-day-off yesterday, the A’s did their best to remove the unsightly grime from their roster. Along with Chad Pinder earning a callback to the MLB due to a Marcus Semien stint on the 10-day DL, the A’s fixed the most glaring holes on their roster by calling up Jaff Decker and Bruce Maxwell. Decker took Mark Canha’s spot on the roster, affording Canha regular playing time in the minor leagues to get his bat going and his legs underneath him in the outfield, and Maxwell is taking the place of a reliever on the roster, giving the A’s a deeper bench and allows Bob Melvin to use a catcher late in the game as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement without worrying about an injury to that catcher with no real backup behind them. Between the roster moves and the day off, the A’s hope their error-filled, lead-losing ways are behind them and clear skies are on the horizon.

The first time the two teams went head-to-head, the three game series was played in Texas. In the first game, the A’s attempted to start Raul Alcantara in the hopes that he could accidentally pitch a good game despite not being MLB ready, and who is only on the roster due to option concerns. He did not pitch a good game, giving up a grand slam and many other hits and runs en route to an eight-runs-in-fewer-than-two-innings outing. On the plus side, Jesse Hahn revealed himself to have regained the chops to rejoin the starting-five after pitching in long relief and replaced Alcantara’s spot in the rotation, limiting the protected rookie to mop-up duty out of the bullpen. The second game saw Kendall Graveman pitch nearly seven innings of no-hit baseball, and continued to show signs that he may have evolved beyond just being a mere back of the rotation starting pitcher as the A’s won handily. The Rangers’ would get their series victory and revenge in the third game however, in a game in which the A’s committed three errors and managed only one hit with runners in scoring position, a scary omen for the type of gameplay the A’s would put forth during the following week.

Since their series victory, the Ranger’s set out on a nine game road trip, from Anaheim to Seattle to Oakland. After dropping the first game of that road trip to the Angels, the Rangers won 8-3 in back to back contests after mashing five combined home runs and taking early, commanding leads. After securing back-to-back series wins after a slow start out of the gates, it appeared as though Texas was putting things together when the team subsequently got swept in three games in Seattle as the offense went anemic against Felix Hernandez and James Paxton and dropped the final game of the series on Sunday in what has become a predictable fashion.

Sam Dyson has not had the ideal start to a baseball season. In just twelve games for the Rangers, Dyson has surrendered thirteen runs on fourteen hits in a total of only four-plus innings pitched, and has blown three saves on the year, including the first game of their roadtrip against the Angels and their most recent game before coming to Oakland against the Mariners. The Rangers have not officially changed closers yet, but Dyson is a major reason as to why the team is currently 4-8 and in dead last in the AL West. The Rangers have plenty of other late-inning options who have no reason not to excel in the closer’s role, but the option likely first in line to replace Dyson, Matt Bush, is injured and not with the team at the moment (also worth mentioning, the latest on Adrian Beltre is that the talented, jovial third baseman will be out for a couple more weeks, and so uber-powerful prospect Joey Gallo will continue to see starts at third base for the immediate future). Thusly, in this upcoming series versus the A’s, expect the Rangers to use a "closer by committee" approach. While this strategy tends not to work for most teams, as it means that no individual is good-enough or established-enough to close games full time on their own, the Rangers back-end of the bullpen is the team’s biggest strength outside of its 1-2 starting rotation punch of Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, and finding a competent closer to replace Sam Dyson shouldn’t prove too hard a challenge.

For the upcoming series, the A’s will be facing the same three Texas starters they did the first time around:

Mon 4/17, 7:05 PM: Cotton (1-1) vs Griffin (1-0) on NBCSCA,

Tue 4/18, 7:05 PM: Triggs (2-0) vs Darvish (1-1) on NBCSCA+,

Wed 4-19, 12:35 PM: Hahn (0-1) vs Perez (1-1) on MLB Network,

Link to Lone Star Ball