Nothing quite takes the wind out of a team’s sails like back-to-back late losses at home following near-perfect baseball for the week and a half prior. But alas, the A’s came up short against the Angels twice in three games in front of the home faithful. Fortunately for the A’s, the Red Sox have also managed to drop two games in a row, and so the team is still tied for that second Wild Card spot.
Though the A’s goal should not be the Wild Card, but the division, as tough and tall a task as it seems. Currently, the Astros are sitting atop the AL West with a seven and a half game lead over the A’s and the third best record in the sport, behind the Twins and Dodgers. The Astros have been the gold standard for a baseball team for several years now, culminating in a World Series win in 2017. Their pitching is always amongst the best in the league, and no team racks up more strikeouts than the Astros. Their team OPS ranks second in all of baseball, behind the aforementioned Twins, and the offensive core is young and primed for sustained success. The Astros had a small and limited budget during their rebuilding years, but rapidly added payroll to fill in the gaps that their farm system could not.
Leading the way for the pitching staff are Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Brad Peacock, each of whom the A’s will face in this three game series. Verlander goes deep into games, averaging nearly seven innings in each of his starts and possessing an absolutely miniscule WHIP of 0.74. Cole has more strikeouts than any other pitcher in the league, totalling nearly one hundred more strikeouts than walks through the first third of the year and possessing an outside chance at three hundred strikeouts for the year if he can stay healthy. Brad Peacock has not allowed a run in three starts and is a master at keeping the ball in the yard, only having allowed four home runs this year.
The main drivers on offense for Houston are George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Aledmys Diaz. However, all four of those players are currently out with injury, which could have some major ramifications for the offense. Springer’s and Correa’s injuries, a hamstring tear and a fractured rib (allegedly via a massage) respectively, will force the star players to the sidelines for several weeks or a couple of months, while Altuve and Diaz are expected to get back into the lineup more quickly. The team is simply not firing on all cylinders right now, and the A’s may be able to take advantage this weekend.
The A’s are going to have to survive some strong pitching this weekend, but if the A’s take the series they will be within shouting distance of the Astros. Then, as the A’s continue to get healthier and the Astros return from injury more slowly, there is a non-zero chance that the A’s can meet up with and potentially surpass Houston in the standings. As was previously stated, the goal shouldn’t be the Wild Card, it ought to be the division. Right now just may be the A’s best chance.
Derek Fisher - LF
Alex Bregman - SS
Michael Brantley - DH
Yuli Gurriel - 3B
Josh Reddick - RF
Robinson Chirinos - C
Tyler White - 1B
Tony Kemp - 2B
Jake Marisnick - CF
Mike Fiers vs Brad Peacock
Brett Anderson vs Justin Verlander
Chris Bassitt vs Gerrit Cole
Game #58: Friday, May 31st at 7:07
Game #59: Saturday, June 1st at 7:07
Game #60: Sunday, June 2nd at 1:07
All games are on NBCSCA. Saturday’s game will be on MLB Network for out of market viewers.