Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

Thearon W. Henderson

The Rays will take on an A's team looking to rebound after a crushing loss in their finale against the Tigers.

The Oakland Athletics are heating up just in time for the Rays to arrive in town for a 3-day weekend series. Prior to taking 3 out of 4 from the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers the Athletics were struggling post All-Star break with a record of 16-18 and had lost 6 out of 9 series in that span. This was a stark contrast to the Oakland A's team that went 56-39 prior to the All Star break.

The A's currently trail the Texas Rangers by 3 games in the AL West and they hold the 2nd wild card spot 1/2 game behind the Tampa Bay Rays and 3.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and 4 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

The pitching matchups:

Friday 10:05 p.m. David Price (8-5, 3.28 ERA) vs Jarrod Parker (10-6, 3.58 ERA)

Saturday 9:05 p.m. Alex Cobb (8-2, 2.87 ERA) vs Sonny Gray (1-2, 3.18 ERA)

Sunday 4:05 p.m. Probable (Roberto Hernandez [6-13, 4.95 ERA]) vs A.J. Griffin (11-9, 3.94 ERA)

The Rays have had to deal with some tough losses of late and have been able to rebound quickly. The A's will try to rebound from a heart breaking loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday afternoon. They were 1-out away from sweeping the Detroit Tigers, handing Max Scherzer his second loss, and enjoying the 3-hour plane ride home on a euphoric high but then a hanging slider was deposited in the right field stands by Torri Hunter to give the Tigers the 7-6 walk off victory. The Tigers had put 4 runs on the board against the normally reliable Grant Balfour who said of his outing after the game:

"I felt terrible today," he said. "I don't know what it was. I had nothing. I didn't have a good fastball. I didn't have a breaking ball. I went out there with nothing, to be honest. I knew that warming up in the 'pen. It's not a good lineup to go out there when you got nothing. You gotta figure out a way. I just kept cutting the ball. I was fighting myself out there." - MBL.com

The Bullpen

The A's bullpen has been reliable over the course of the season but has shown a few cracks in the 2nd half with Balfour outing versus the Tigers being an example. The A's are 24-17 in 1-run games which ties them for the most 1-run wins in the major leagues. The A's bullpen relies on the opposition putting the ball in play. On the year the A's bullpen has issued a major league leading low of 120 walks and have the fewest strikeouts 333 in the American League.

Grant Balfour (CL), Ryan Cook, Sean Doolitlle (LHP), Danny Otero, Jerry Blevins (LHP), Brett Anderson (LHP), & Jesse Chavez.

If the name Jesse Chavez looks familiar its because that is the same Jesse Chavez that was shipped to the Atlanta Braves to acquire Rafael Soriano in the winter of 2009.

The following table represents the performance of the A's bullpen since the All-Star break:

Name W L SV IP ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 LOB% GB% HR/FB
Athletics 6 5 10 107 3.26 3.23 8.53 2.93 0.75 72.3% 41.8% 8.9%
Grant Balfour 0 1 8 12.1 2.19 2.39 13.14 3.65 0.73 71.4% 29.6% 9.1%
Ryan Cook 3 1 1 15.2 1.72 3.03 8.04 2.87 0.57 83.3% 56.5% 10.0%
Dan Otero 1 0 0 19.2 0.46 2.32 5.95 1.83 0.00 88.9% 58.2% 0.0%
Jesse Chavez 1 1 0 15.2 6.32 2.65 10.34 5.74 0.00 60.7% 42.2% 0.0%
Sean Doolittle 1 2 0 13.2 4.61 3.18 8.56 2.63 0.66 68.2% 23.7% 5.6%
Jerry Blevins 0 0 0 15.1 2.93 3.75 8.80 2.93 1.17 65.2% 25.0% 10.5%
Brett Anderson 0 0 1 3 9.00 2.37 3.00 0.00 0.00 40.0% 53.8% 0.0%

On The Shelf:

Former Rays Catcher John Jaso is on the 15 day disabled list as he recovers from concussion like symptoms. Their other primary catcher Derek Norris is out with a fractured toe. Outfielder Josh Reddick is out with a sprained wrist.

The Offense:

The A's offense has averaged 4.47 runs/game in the second half of the season. The offense has been led by Brandon Moss who in the second half of the season has belted 9 home runs and posted a slash line of .309/.377/.609 and a wRC+ of 172.

The A"s, like the Rays, use pinch hitters a lot. The Rays pinch hitters have the most plate appearances (133) in the American League and are hitting .205 which is slightly below league average for pinch hitters (.207). The A"s pinch hitter have the 2nd most pinch hitting plate appearances (130) and have the leagues second lowest batting average (.143), the most strikeouts (35), but do rank 2nd in the AL behind the Boston Red Sox with 4 home runs.

The following table details the A's offense in the second half.

Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ HR BB% K% WAR
Athletics 1438 0.254 0.323 0.426 0.328 109 44 8.70% 18.8% 6.7
John Jaso (DL) 16 0.300 0.563 0.700 0.524 243 1 37.5% 12.5% 0.3
Derek Norris (DL) 46 0.341 0.413 0.610 0.441 186 3 8.7% 21.7% 0.7
Brandon Moss 122 0.309 0.377 0.609 0.421 172 9 9.0% 18.9% 1.1
Nate Freiman 46 0.350 0.413 0.550 0.415 168 2 8.7% 6.5% 0.4
Alberto Callaspo 84 0.306 0.393 0.431 0.365 134 1 11.9% 14.3% 0.3
Kurt Suzuki 12 0.333 0.333 0.500 0.359 130 0 0.0% 16.7% 0.1
Jed Lowrie 165 0.290 0.325 0.477 0.345 120 3 4.8% 13.9% 0.9
Josh Donaldson 161 0.254 0.350 0.377 0.326 108 3 11.2% 18.0% 1
Eric Sogard 119 0.290 0.313 0.430 0.319 103 1 3.4% 13.4% 0.6
Yoenis Cespedes 137 0.233 0.277 0.426 0.306 94 5 5.8% 25.5% 0.5
Coco Crisp 137 0.232 0.299 0.400 0.306 94 5 8.8% 12.4% 0.5
Chris Young 83 0.192 0.289 0.397 0.304 92 3 10.8% 31.3% 0.2
Josh Reddick (DL) 124 0.202 0.290 0.394 0.300 90 6 10.5% 25.0% 0.8
Stephen Vogt 79 0.257 0.325 0.329 0.291 83 1 8.9% 20.3% 0.3
Daric Barton 16 0.286 0.313 0.286 0.265 65 0 6.3% 6.3% 0
Seth Smith 74 0.123 0.230 0.215 0.212 29 1 12.2% 27.0% -0.4

Data From Fangraphs.com

The Starting Pitching

Jarrod Parker

Over his last 5 starts he has been an impressive 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He has worked 37.1 innings allowing only 8R/ER on 33 hits striking out 31 while walking only 7.

He last faced the Rays on April 20th at Tropicana Field holding them to a single run in 6.1 innings but that would be all the Rays would need as Jeremy Hellickson, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney combined to shutout the A's as the Rays won 1-0.

Sonny Gray

Gray was the A's #1 pick out of Vanderbilt University in the 2011 draft. He was ranked by Baseball America as the #65 prospect on their top 100 prior to the 2012 season but fell off the list after a mediocre 6-9 with a 4.29 ERA season split between Double A Midland and Triple A Sacremento.

In 2013 he started the year in Triple A and posted a record of 10-7 with a 3.42 ERA and received his call up to the A's.

He has appeared in 6 games and made 4 starts. In his 4 starts he is 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA. He has worked 24.1 innings allowing 12R/10ER on 18 hits striking out 24 and walking 8.

A.J. Griffin

Over his last 5 starts he is 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA. He has worked 28.1 innings and allowed 16R/13ER on 26 hits while striking out 23 and walking 17.

His last appearance against the Rays came last season on July 30th receiving a no-decision after working 7 innings allowing only 3 runs in a 4-3 Athletics victory.

He leads the American League with 32 home runs allowed. He has allowed 13 home runs in 85.1 innings at home and 19 home runs in 83.2 innings on the road.

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