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Game Thread #148: A’s at Rays

Sweeping the Rays this weekend would be great, but winning the series is imperative for A’s

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
A’s starting pitcher Edwin Jackson
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Even though the A’s only lost a half a game in both the division race and the race for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game with last night’s loss, they need to get back on track tonight at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite playing in the MLB’s toughest division, the Rays could end up being quite the formidable opponent, meaning the Athletics need to be on their game all weekend.

With the New York Yankees facing off with against the Toronto Blue Jays, who are 23.5 games back in the Wild Card race and have already been eliminated from any chance of winning their division, and the Houston Astros taking on the Arizona Diamondbacks at home in Houston, both of the A’s two current rivals have the opportunity to sweep their respective opponents. It should be assumed that both the Yankees and Astros will at the very least take two of three games and this weekend’s series against their respective opponents. The A’s must do at least that — win the series over the Rays this weekend — if they want a chance to catch either team.

The Rays have been almost as big of a surprise as the A’s have been this season, shocking much of the baseball world with their play in the second half. Even though they are still eight games back of winning a spot in the Wild Card Game, they’ve been playing extremely good baseball the last three months, even more so the last two. So far in September they have suffered just two losses. In August they took a series from the Yankees in New York and completed a sweep of the league’s best team, the Boston Red Sox. To be fair the A’s also played well against the Red Sox this season, winning the season series between the two teams. Still, it’s not the easiest of feats to accomplish.

Rumors have even been swirling that Ray’s skipper Kevin Cash is the only manager who might have a chance (albeit slim) at beating out our own Bob Melvin for AL Manager of the Year. Yes, the Rays have been that good. And yes, much like the A’s they operate with few stars and fewer funds than the rest of the league. The A’s need to watch their backs the next three days and not become complacent. If the Rays were to sweep the A’s — they could potentially be just five games from stealing the A’s postseason berth. It isn’t likely but it is a possibility.

Veteran Edwin Jackson will be on the mound for the A’s this evening facing the Rays’ 24-year-old rookie Diego Castillo. Jackson, who is 11-years Castillo’s senior, is 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 14 starts this season. Castillo is 3-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 37 appearances for the Rays, six of which have been starts. He’s also finished five games for a total of 47 innings of work. The A’s are not the only team who’ve been “bullpenning” this season. In fact, it was the Rays who began using the “opener” strategy first, explaining Castillo’s interesting set of stats. How long the Rays will leave him in the game is anyone’s guess — just like it will be for the A’s and likely “opener” Liam Hendriks on Saturday. Jackson will be the games’ true starter for Oakland but similarly that doesn’t guarantee how far into the game he will pitch either. A contest between two teams who both have used “bullpenning” this season — the Rays more often than the A’s — will most certainly be different than what we are used to and not something you will see everyday — yet.

Here are today’s lineups:

Oakland Athletics:

  1. N Martini (L) LF
  2. M Chapman (R) 3B
  3. J Lowrie (S) 2B
  4. K Davis (R) DH
  5. M Olson (L) 1B
  6. S Piscotty (R) RF
  7. R Laureano (R) CF
  8. M Semien (R) SS
  9. J Lucroy (R) C

Tampa Bay Rays:

  1. M Smith (L) RF
  2. M Duffy (R) 3B
  3. J Choi (L) DH
  4. T Pham (R) LF
  5. J Wendle (L) 2B
  6. W Adames (R) SS
  7. K Kiermaier (L) CF
  8. J Bauers (L) 1B
  9. N Ciuffo (L) C

Alright! Let’s do this! Let’s Go Oakland!!