Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Oakland Athletics

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 09: Dallas Braden #51 of the Oakland Athletics pitches to Gabe Kapler #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays for the last out of his perfect game during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 9, 2010 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

First two games are 10:10 PM starts; Saturday is a 9:05 PM start and Sunday is actually at a reasonable hour, 4:05 PM. Yay for West Coast road trips...

Thursday, August 19: Andy Sonnanstine vs. Trevor Cahill

Friday, August 20: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Vin Mazzaro

Saturday, August 21: David Price vs. Brett Anderson

Sunday, August 22: Matt Garza vs. Dallas Braden

The Athletics are an odd collection of players. They have some truly talented players, including young guns Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, and one or two good hitters (Jack Cust jumps to mind), but the total package is lacking in depth. There isn't much offense to be found in this line-up beyond Cust (.372 wOBA) and Coco Crisp (.357 wOBA), so although many of their young hitters have promise, their offense ranks towards the bottom of the league in most categories. Their power production challenges the Mariners for the worst in the majors (.105 ISO to .118 ISO) and their Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is seventh worst in the majors.

Starting pitching is the Athletics' strength. Anderson and Braden are both excellent young lefties, and Trevor Cahill is having himself a fine season. He's 22 and had a young year last season in the majors, but he's posted a 3.95 FIP so far this season, making a living by generating groundballs (55% groundball rate) and limiting homeruns. Zin Mazzaro is also very young at 23 years old, but he hasn't found success yet at the major league level.

Enjoy seeing Jeremy Hellickson starting again, for it may be our last time this season. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are both still on schedule to return during the Rays' next series, meaning Hellickson will either be demoted back to Durham or slid over into the bullpen. After watching him tear apart much stronger offenses, I'm exciting to see what he can do against the Athletics.

Keys to the Series:

  • Score early and often. The Athletics have a strong bullpen led by Andrew Bailey, Mike Wuertz, and Brad Ziegler, so they're to be avoided if possible.
  • Be patient, but don't be too patient. The Athletics' pitchers thrive by limiting walks, so the Rays shouldn't be expecting to get too many free passes, especially against Anderson and Braden (both average around 1.5 walks per nine).
  • Don't get perfect game'd. This should be simple enough, right?
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