Hypothetically, the A’s could end this series not in last place. As the A’s travel up to Seattle for a final four game series before the season gets put on hold for the All Star Break, all the team needs to climb out of the AL West cellar is a sweep of scuffling Mariners. Before all too long ago the idea of the A’s winning just about anything on the road was a losing bet, but in recent weeks as the team has gotten younger and has actually become athletic (or, at least, moreso than it was the first two months of the year), they are no longer the road pushovers they used to be.
· Houston: 58-27
· Anaheim: 44-45
· Texas: 41-44
· Seattle: 41-45
· Oakland: 37-48
The break could not be coming at a better time for the Mariners, who have had the worst team-wide stretch of baseball over the last ten games, winning only two of them and having inconsistencies on both sides of the baseball. The skid has not been enough to change the Mariners’ goals of pushing for the playoffs this year, especially when the American League is riddled with parity again and every team, even including the A’s, are technically still in the chase- due to being under eight games back of a playoff spot with still half the season to go (that the A’s would need to leapfrog over every other American League team to procure a spot is beside the point).
The Mariners have a solid starting rotation, one that has gotten some intriguing new names in the last couple of days and weeks, but it isn’t a rotation that can instill fear and discomfort in its opposition than it used to. Its veterans are on the decline of their careers, and the younger half of the rotation is still raw and still trying to reach its prime. The bullpen has a lot of intriguing fireballers in it, especially at the back end of the bullpen, but those same fireballers haven’t been able to harness their control in order to be able to be at their best day in and day out. As a result, the Mariners’ bullpen has the sixth worst FIP in the league. Like the starting rotation, the Mariners’ roster is permeated with aging veteran stars and strong youngsters growing into starting roles, with very few players actually in their prime, and like the bullpen, the position players lack game to game consistency.
Andrew Moore is a rookie who has now made a total of two career starts. In those two starts, Moore has lasted for fifteen combined innings (at least seven innings pitched in each frame) and as an extremely low WHIP of 0.73. While his strikeouts have been lacking in his first two starts, run prevention via inducing consistent weak contact, rather than a lower than ideal K total, has allowed Moore to be successful in his first big league stint. Three of the few hits he has allowed through his first two starts have been home runs, and the A’s can hit home runs better than they can do anything else, and so if Moore has a weakness to expose, the A’s may actually be capable of doing just that.
Even if the A’s fail to take advantage of the Mariners’ starting pitching, the A’s will still have the benefit of going up against Edwin Diaz and/or Dan Altavilla, who, too, are giving up home runs like they are going out of style. Diaz’s HR/9 is 2.32, and Altavilla’s HR/9 is 2.51. Both former starters, now relievers, are highly unlikely to continue to give up home runs at that rate, but for now, Oakland’s bats should feast.
Thursday, July 6th at 7:10 – Blackburn vs Gaviglio
Friday, July 7th at 7:10 – Sean Manaea vs James Paxton
Saturday, July 8th at 7:10 – Jharel Cotton vs Andrew Moore
Sunday, July 9th at 1:10 – Daniel Gossett vs Felix Hernandez
All games are on NBCSCA and MLB.tv.
How the A’s Win the Series
The A’s have lived and died by the long ball all year, and that fact still rings very true for this series. Each of the Mariners’ starters have home run related weaknesses, with the exception of someone like James Paxton, but even he is being neutralized by the A’s very own lefty-budding-ace that very night, so the A’s still have decent odds of success. In head to head competition this year, the teams have been mostly even matched, with the home team having the advantage in each of the two series the teams played against each other this year. The A’s are 4-3 in those games, but the last game these two teams played against each other was in mid-May, and the A’s were an entirely different squad.
If the A’s can somehow magically pull off a sweep this weekend, despite how unlikely that may be, the A’s will be out of the AL West dungeon and not-entirely-jokingly in the AL Wild Card discussion. There couldn’t be a better way for the team to go into the All Star Break.