The A’s may have gotten swept in their short series against Seattle and allowed the Mariners to soar above .500 in a way that no other non-Astros AL West team has managed to do all season and procure the second Wild Card spot, but the team can still play spoiler yet. Meanwhile, the Astros are looking more and more beatable by the day, and it’s possible that the Astros reign of terror over the A’s, and the rest of the west, is coming to a close, even if its nigh impossible for any team to catch them before the season ends.
· Houston: 71-42
· Seattle: 59-56
· Anaheim: 57-58
· Texas: 54-59
· Oakland: 50-64
Meanwhile, the 56-58 Orioles are one of the lone American League team that the A’s haven’t matched up against yet this season. The storied franchise hasn’t been at its best this season, in large part due to its two most powerful hitters not hitting, shaky starting pitching, and general struggles on the road. This bodes well for Oakland, whose biggest weaknesses include giving up lots of big and dramatic home runs, a shaky bullpen, and playing on the road. Despite the frustrations and struggles on the season for Baltimore, however, due to the extreme non-Astros parity in the American League, the Orioles can still dream on a Wild Card spot, just two and a half games behind Seattle in the second slot. They just have to beat the teams they have to beat, like the A’s.
In order to make the Wild Card push, the Orioles held onto key veterans like Zach Britton and Brad Brach, in a market where relievers had quite the high asking price, and instead acquired starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and, ideally, their future shortstop in Tim Beckham. Both acquisitions don’t seem poised to move the Orioles needle too much in either direction, as neither player appears to be much of a game-changer, and so if the Orioles weren’t going to sell at the trade deadline, it’s understandable to question why the team didn’t try to make a bigger splash. But considering just how quiet most teams were this trade season, it’s entirely possible a bigger, flashier deal just wasn’t possible for a franchise like the Orioles.
Despite not being flashy, and despite largely being considered a waste of a number overall pick, Tim Beckham has been on fire since being traded from Tampa Bay to Baltimore. In admittedly a small sample size, Beckham has hit to the tune of a .536/.552/1.036 batting line with three home runs and seven runs scored in a little over a week with his new team, all while playing very solid defense up the middle. Beckham may never reach a level where he could be justified for being drafted first in 2008, but as of right now he is as hot as any hitter in baseball.
On the other side of the spectrum, the two guys who have batted fourth and fifth all season long due to their massive power potential just haven’t been hitting this year. Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis simply have not been able to produce like they have in the past, and both sluggers have OPS’s under .740 at the start of tonight’s game. They can still run into home runs at a decent rate, but most of the rest of their game has gone by the wayside.
Khris Davis is now the premier –ris Davis in baseball, in case that was still even a debate.
Thursday, August 10th at 7:05 – Chris Smith vs Wade Miley
Friday, August 11th at 7:05 – Paul Blackburn vs Ubaldo Jimenez
Saturday, August 12th at 6:05 – Sean Manaea vs Dylan Bundy
Sunday, August 13th at 1:05 – Kendall Graveman vs Jeremy Hellickson
How the A’s Win the Series
On paper, the A’s should have the advantage in starting pitching in just about every game. Chris Smith has been more than solid when starting for the A’s this season even without any gaudy numbers, and has excelled in keeping the A’s close in each game that he’s pitched, and he’s going up against a pitcher who has just gotten colder and colder as the weather has gotten hotter and hotter. Paul Blackburn has continued to be a confounding baseball imp who does not need petty strikeouts to be successful, and he will be opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez, who has spun one amazing half season seven years ago into a long-lived baseball career, and is quite good at striking people out, but not as good at getting other types of outs. In the latter two games of the series, inconsistent but valuable and improving starters in Manaea and Graveman will be opposed by inconsistent but valuable and improving starters in Bundy and Hellickson.
For the A’s to win this series, they will have to jump all over Baltimore’s starting pitching and take commanding early leads, because the A’s ‘pen is filled with gas cans and the Orioles’ bullpen is basically the exact opposite of Oakland’s. At the very least, the A’s are playing at home, where they tend to be perfectly cromulent at baseball, and the Orioles are on the road, and are one of the few teams with a worse home-road win-loss differential than the A’s, and only two wins better on the road than Oakland.