The mixed bag of the Bay Bridge series is over, and once again sights are now set on the AL West. It has been a long time since the A’s have matched up against their division rivals, apart from the occasional short series here and there, but as the season plugs through the dog days of August and starts to wind down, the faces of Oakland’s AL West foes become all too familiar once more. At the very least, the A’s are finally at full strength with most all of its key players coming off of the Disabled List (newly acquired players in the Sonny Gray trade and Andrew Triggs notwithstanding) and poised to be at their best as the inter-divisional matchups resume, increasing the chances that the A’s can move quickly up, or further down, in the standings.
- Houston: 69-39
- Seattle: 55-55
- Anaheim: 54-55
- Texas: 52-56
- Oakland: 48-61
It would be nice if the A’s aren’t the reason that a non-Astros AL West team actually manages to claw their way up to a winning record, so for that reason alone it is imperative the A’s play at their very best over the next week-plus. For what it's worth, Houston has been just regular good, and not phenomenal good, for quite a while now.
The Angels have been playing well, winners of three straight games after completing a sweep in their last series. The sweep was against the Philadelphia Phillies, but still, the team from not-Los Angeles is tough competition right now. Despite still having a losing record, the Angels still have the slimmest of hopes of a wild card berth and are a mere three games out of the wild card standings, behind the Mariners, the Royals, and the Rays for the coveted spot in baseball thunderdome. To make matters better for the Angels, many of their key players are returning from injury and the team is now approaching full-strength. Mike Trout is back and hitting as good as ever, and Tyler Skaggs is set to rejoin the Angels rotation over the weekend. However, the team was rather quiet at the trade deadline while the rest of their competition was reloading for the final stretch of the year, so while a healthy Mike Trout is a major addition to the team in itself, it may not be enough to propel the Angels to the playoffs unless the team catches fire, and quick.
Surprise suprise, Mike Trout has been crushing baseballs since his return from the Disabled List. The power didn’t come back with him right away, but he’s been on base in nearly every game since his return, and he has now hit two home runs in as many games to silence anyone who was wondering if he wasn’t back at full strength. His OPS is now sitting at 1.160. However, the hottest hitter for the Angels right now is Kaleb Cowart, who is finally getting a chance to start after years of getting shuttled back and forth between AAA and the majors, and he is making the most out of that chance. In ten games, he has a .438 average and a .719 slugging percentage while playing strong defense, and has been an unexpected boon to the Angels’ generally average offense.
Meanwhile, a lackluster Jesse Chavez has been relegated to the bullpen after pitching to a 5.43 ERA in twenty one starts. He is being replaced in the starting rotation by Tyler Skaggs. Chavez was one start away from major incentives in his contract, for starting, kicking in, so the move, while ultimately probably necessary, is not at all suspicious, timing-wise.
Friday, August 4th at 7:07 - Jharel Cotton vs Troy Scribner
Saturday, August 5th at 6:07 - Paul Blackburn vs Tyler Skaggs
Sunday, August 6th at 12:37 - Sean Manaea vs Ricky Nolasco
How the A’s Win the Series
Evan Scribner’s brother is making the first start of his major league career after debuting as a long reliever for the Angels, and Tyler Skaggs is making his first start since landing on the disabled list all the way back in April, so the A’s will be facing a couple of rather fresh arms in the first two games of the series. On paper, the A’s then look to have a slight advantage on the pitching side of things, while the Angels may have the edge on the offensive side of things, so the series figures to be a hard-fought affair. If the A’s pitchers can keep Mike Trout and, surprisingly, Kaleb Cowart’s and Andrelton Simmons’ bats under wraps and in the yard, then the A’s should be able to spoil some of Anaheim’s Wild Card dreams.