In a battle between two eliminated-from-contention teams, both of which are just a stone’s throw away from being the respective worst teams in each league, this weekend in baseball features two opponents playing for the future. Gone from both squads are the holdover veterans keeping the spot warm for a rookie heading up the pipe, and gone from both squads are the days of constant roster churning. Both teams are still losing more than they are winning, but have each gone on recent winning streaks against their competition and are plenty capable of having a strong series and giving their respective fanbases a multitude of reasons to keep on cheering, despite the losing.
- Houston: 88-58
- Anaheim: 74-72
- Seattle: 74-73
- Texas: 72-74
- Oakland: 64-82
How the A’s and Phillies reached their current states as ballclubs could not be more different, but as of right now the two teams have more similarities than differences. The A’s, sensing the end of the era of the team’s competitiveness was nigh, made a significant number of impactful trades in an attempt at a reload, that was actually more of a backfire. They have been amongst the worst teams in the American League for the three years following the backfire. The team from the A’s original home, riding high on a World Series win in 2009, locked all of its fan favorites and superstars to long term deals, and for years, due to rising ages and declining abilities, the team experienced a slow and painful descent into the National League basement, where they have remained for years. A new generation of young stars, and a change in management both on and off of the field, however, bodes hope for the Phillies in years to come. Same can be said for Oakland.
Both teams have exciting young sluggers capturing the hearts’ and minds’ of fans everywhere. Both teams have seen their exciting young pitching staffs fail to progress like everyone hoped.
At this point, one would be remiss to not mention Rhys Hoskins, first baseman for the Phillies. Since his callup to the bigs, some thirty-four games ago, he has put on an offensive show the likes of which the sport has not seen since Barry Bonds was a regular, and has not been seen from a rookie ballplayer ever. He has hit a home run in three consecutive games three times, totalling eighteen (five more than any other rookie through the same number of games in baseball history) and is about to become the Phillies’ team leader in home runs hit. He has the same number of walks as strikeouts, so the plate discipline is there to back up his power. Matt Olson has been silencing his doubters with a shorter swing and easier power than was believed capable from him, but Hoskins has been otherworldly to begin his career, and while his career start is highly unlikely to be sustainable, the run he is on must be respected. Behind Hoskins, while the lineup collectively has struggled throughout the season, youngsters Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez have all had respectable seasons and look to be a contributing part of the next competitive Phillies’ team.
Friday, September 15th at 4:05 - Daniel Mengden vs Mark Leiter
Saturday, September 16th at 4:05 - Kendall Graveman vs Ben Lively
Sunday, September 17th at 10:35 - Sean Manaea vs Henderson Alvarez
How the A’s Win the Series
Outside of Aaron Nola, the Phillies’ pitching staff has been pretty nightmareish all year long. However, of the few other bright spots in the rotation, the A’s will be taking on two of them. Mark Leiter was having a very consistent and underrated beginning to his career as a starting pitcher, after converting from the bullpen, before getting absolutely lit up in his two starts prior to tonight’s affair, causing his ERA to spike upwards a full point from the high-threes to the high-fours. Righty Ben Lively has been the best starter for Philadelphia outside of Aaron Nola, and looks to be essentially a lock for the team’s wide-open starting rotation next year, should he stay healthy. Henderson Alvarez never got to complete his comeback to the big leagues with the A’s after two major should surgeries, but now, in opposition playing for Philadelphia, the A’s get to become Alvarez’s first major league opponents in two years. His performance aside, the sheer fact that Alvarez is taking the mound again after what his arm has been through is incredible.
The optimist on the A’s side will point out Leiter’s horrendous previous couple of starts and numbers that indicate that Lively has been getting lucky and that Alvarez is big ol’ unpredictable wild card, and can conclude that the A’s offense can do quite a bit of damage this series.
For the A’s pitching staff, outside of Rhys Hoskins there aren’t many hitters that need to be pitched around or nitpicked, and so they can go right after the opposition. Should Oakland’s starters not let Hoskins hurt them like he’s hurt everyone else, the offense should be able to provide enough to make this a rare-winnable road series for the A’s. But more importantly than winning or losing is seeing the future stars of both teams succeeding on the playing field.