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Series #46: Athletics vs Rangers - Farewell to the Lone Star State

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers’ Current Record:

61-79, last place in the AL West. They are 22.5 games back of the A’s for the second Wild Card spot, and have subsequently been eliminated from contention.

Possible Lineup:

Shin-Soo Choo - LF

Rougned Odor - 2B

Elvis Andrus - SS

Nomar Mazara - RF

Adrian Beltre - DH

Jurickson Profar - 3B

Joey Gallo - CF

Robinson Chirinos - C

Ronald Guzman - 1B

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Yovani Gallardo - RHP

Yohander Mendez - RHP

TBD - XHP

Hottest Hitter(s):

The Rangers have scored more runs than any other team in baseball’s second half, but the team has taken the offense to a whole new level this last week. Nomar Mazara has four home runs and ten RsBI in his last six games, good for a 1.413 OPS over that span. The ageless Adrian Beltre hasn’t been far behind him, however, knocking three home runs and slugging .667. While much of this offense came during an 18-4 trouncing of the Twins earlier this week, the Rangers have been swinging good bats for a while.

Coldest Hitter(s):

One would never be able to tell, as an A’s fan, but over the last month Robinson Chirinos is batting just .160 with a .597 OPS. The outlook is bleaker knowing that the bulk of his offensive line came against the A’s. Elvis Andrus has only hit six extra base hits over the last month while typically batting in the three spot of the lineup. Fortunately, the lineup has been able to bail Andrus out on many occasions.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

After two appearances, one start, in the first half of the season, wherein he put up a record of 0-1 with a 14.73 ERA, Yohander Mendez flummoxed the opposition in his most recent start, allowing just three hits and walk walk in six shutout innings against the Twins. For a team starved of viable starting pitching options, Mendez’ emergence would be of huge help.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Outside of Mike Minor, the rest of the Rangers’ starting rotation is in shambles, and is a large reason as to why the Rangers haven’t been able to win, even with their offense performing supremely well. All other Rangers who have made at least three starts over the last month have ERAs of 4.97 and above during that time frame, and with the Rangers’ front end of the bullpen mostly filled with minor league chaff, there isn’t enough bullpen depth to make up for the starters’ struggles.

Key Injuries:

No new news on the Rangers’ injury front, beyond guys steadily getting healthy or preparing for the next season.

* * *

The AL West was as wild as ever this season, and in the first half it wasn’t all too kind to Oakland. The A’s went 1-6 against Houston out of the gates, and had solid losing records against the Mariners and the Angels, too. Fortunately, the Rangers were always the one division rival the A’s could count on to beat, as they have against so many other American League opponents who now find themselves eliminated from the postseason. The Rangers, of course, were built a lot like the A’s, with a strong offense and back end of the bullpen, but nearly nonexistent starting pitching. While the A’s fortunately dug up some starting pitching studs out of the scrapheap by reuniting with old prospects and taking a chance on some veteran journeymen, the Rangers never found a solution to their starting woes, and thusly the teams find themselves on opposite ends of the standings.

None of that is to say that the Rangers are an easy opponent - quite the contrary. The Rangers offense is more than capable of putting double digit runs on the board against teams, regardless of the quality of the staffs they’re going up against. The A’s pitching staff is thin right now, and while the call up of Chris Bassitt will help by giving the starting pitchers some extra rest, this Rangers lineup can put a lot of stress on high leverage arms in the late innings. The only solution to that is to get commanding leads early to eliminate the need to use high leverage arms in each game, no easy task. This is the final series the A’s will play against the Rangers this season, and there are bound to be some final fireworks.

Game #141: Friday, September 7th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLB.tv

Liam Hendriks vs Yovani Gallardo

While Hendriks is getting the start for the A’s, the plan is for Chris Bassitt to pitch the majority of the innings for the A’s in Friday’s game. The Hendriks-as-Opener strategy has had one successful execution and one unsuccessful execution, but the strategy is likely to stay through the end of the season, if not through the end of the world series, given the cards the A’s have been dealt. While there have been some rumblings of discontent in the A’s clubhouse over the sudden implementation of the opener strategy, the MO of the season has been a willingness and eagerness of the players to fulfill whatever role is asked of them, and those rumblings are sure to be brief.

Game #142: Saturday, September 8th, 1:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLB.tv

Edwin Jackson vs Yohander Mendez

After a couple of shaky appearances, Jackson looked to be back on track of success in his last start over the weekend. Jackson has consistently been one of the A’s most efficient starting pitchers, having very few high stress, high pitch count innings. Mendez of the Rangers is going to have to try and prove that his last start was more indicative of his MLB potential than his first start.

Game #143: Sunday, September 9th, 1:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLB.tv

Trevor Cahill vs TBD

Fortunately for Oakland, Cahill will be making his next start at Rickey Henderson Field, where his ERA is hovering right above 1.00 on the season. Cahill gave the A’s five strong innings against the Yankees in his last start in what could have very likely been a Wild Card Game preview.