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Series #23: Athletics at Rays - Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Ray

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a more arduous road trip than the A’s 4-3 record would otherwise indicate. However, as the team travels to its third city on the trip, its final three city road trip of the season (excluding a road trip in August where the third city is San Francisco), things are about to get a whole lot tougher. The A’s will really need to bring their “A” game this week.

This is the first matchup between the A’s and Rays this year. The Rays are currently 40-26 and tied for first place with the Yankees in the AL East, though the Rays have a +27 run differential over the Yankees, suggesting that they’ve been unluckier than the Bronx Bombers. The Rays have gotten to this point thanks to an absurdly dominant pitching staff that has only given up 208 runs all year. For good measure, that run total is thirty two runs better than the runner up, and less than half of the total runs that the Mariners have allowed to this point.

The big name on the staff, of course, is Blake Snell, who just signed a handsome little extension this offseason. He is one of three pure starting pitchers on the team this season, and his 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP are something that any team would want and could find a use for. But Snell has actually been the worst starting pitcher/bulk guy of the bunch. Veteran Charlie Morton has only allowed four home runs in seventy five innings this year. Yonny Chirinos has only given up forty nine hits in sixty nine innings this year.

The best of the bunch is actually injured at the moment with a mild forearm strain, so fortunately for the A’s they won’t have to worry about him. Tyler Glasnow, acquired by the Rays from the Pirates, has been a revelation this season. In forty eight innings pitched, Glasnow has a 1.86 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. The Rays haven’t missed a beat without him as they continue to put more distance between themselves and the third place Red Sox, but he will surely be welcomed back with open arms the moment he is fully healthy and ready to go.

And there is Emilio Pagan. The former Athletic always had good stuff when he was here, but struggled with his consistency and mechanics and couldn’t ever fully put it together. The pitching staff couldn’t figure out how to get him over the hump, and trading him away was probably the right decision. Anyhoo, in twenty two innings pitched Pagan has thirty strikeouts, just twelve hits allowed, and a 0.82 ERA. With the current state of the A’s bullpen, it is difficult not to gaze wistfully into the middle distance and daydream of what could have been.

Also, believe it or not, the Rays do have position players as well. Currently, the best among them has been Austin Meadows, a former top prospect who has been living up to his hype, if not blowing straight past his hype. Two plus months into the year, Meadows is slashing .346/.420/.626, along with twelve home runs and eight stolen bases. He’s positionally versatile as well. Behind him guys aren’t setting the world on fire, but the team has five other regulars who have an OPS of at least .800 and there are only a few black holes at the bottom of the order. And those black holes typically play strong defense at multiple positions to make up for their lack of bat.

All told, this may be the toughest non-Astros opponent the A’s have squared up against so far. That isn’t to say that this series is destined to be a disaster, but that the A’s will need to play up to their competition to avoid falling further behind Texas for that elusive second Wild Card spot.

Potential Lineup

Austin Meadows - LF

Tommy Pham - DH

Brandon Lowe - 2B

Avisail Garcia - RF

Ji-Man Choi - 1B

Yandy Diaz - 3B

Kevin Kiermaier - CF

Willy Adames - SS

Mike Zunino - C

Pitching Matchups

Tanner Anderson vs Charlie Morton

Mike Fiers vs The Rays Bullpen Machine (Potentially Jalen Beeks as Bulk Guy)

Brett Anderson vs TBD (But maybe Yonny Chirinos)

Game Information

Game #68: Monday, June 10th at 4:10

Game #69: Tuesday, June 11th at 4:10

Game #60: Wednesday, June 12th at 9:10

The games on Monday and Tuesday afternoon will be broadcast on NBCSCA. Wednesday’s early morning game won’t have a local broadcast, but will be on MLB Network.