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Series Preview: Oakland comes in for four games in three days

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a series victory over the Chicago White Sox by winning the final two games. This weekend the Oakland Athletics head to Tropicana Field fresh off winning two out of three from the Toronto Blue Jays

The Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Andrew Triggs vs Alex Cobb

Saturday 2:10 PM: Sonny Gray vs Erasmo Ramirez

Saturday 5:40 PM: Sean Manaea vs Matt Andriese

Sunday 1:10 PM: Jesse Hahn vs Chris Archer

Athletics top four pitchers scheduled to face Rays.

Andrew Triggs has posted a 3.36 ERA and 3.80 FIP, striking out 18.4% of batters and walking 6.5%. The big right hander has limited damage from left handed bats, as lefties are batting .190/.257/.296 with two homers against him. Triggs is coming off his worst start of the season, when he gave up six runs in 3.2 innings against the Washington Nationals.

Sonny Gray continues to struggle to stay healthy, but his peripherals have bounced back even though the ERA is still higher than you would expect. Gray has posted a 4.57 ERA and 3.80 FIP. His strikeouts have returned to a 21.6% rate that would be his highest since 2013. His 7.6% walk rate is in line with his 7.8% career rate. In his last start he went seven strong innings allowing three runs against the high powered Nationals offense. Gray has shown no split this year allowing a .292 wOBA against right handed and left handed bats.

Sean Manaea is a big lefty who has seen a massive spike in strikeouts this year. Manaea is up to a 27.5% strikeout rate after posting a 20.9% rate in his first taste at the MLB level. His walk rate, however, has climbed to 9.9%. He has allowed a 3.81 ERA, but has a 3.22 FIP. Left handed bats are hitting an anemic .051/.182/.132 against him this season. In his last start he gave up two runs in six innings against the Blue Jays.

Jesse Hahn is a former Rays farmhand that was a piece of the trade to the San Diego Padres where the Rays acquired Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger, and Matt Andriese. Health has always been Hahn’s problem. In four seasons in the majors he has managed 272.0 innings. This year, he has posted a 3.40 ERA and 2.89 FIP. Hahn has an 18.0% strikeout rate and 8.0% walk rate, and he doesn’t allow the ball to get airborne very often. Left hand bats have had some success against him, hitting .240/.343/.366 this year, but he doesn’t allow many extra base hits. In his last outing he went six innings allowing only one unearned run against the Blue Jays.

The Athletics bullpen has been one of the least effective in the league.

The Athletics bullpen has allowed the second highest ERA in all of Major League Baseball at 4.95. Their 4.53 FIP is better, but still far from good.

Santiago Castillo was brought back on a two-year, eleven million dollar contract and has filled in as their closer. He has converted ten saves, but has a 4.22 ERA and 4.20 FIP. A 10.9% walk rate has really hurt Castillo as he’s not a big strikeout guy at 20.7%.

Sean Doolittle is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list today. He missed the month of May with a sore shoulder. Doolittle has been a very good reliever, but only has amassed 7.2 innings this year. He gets a lot of strikeouts with a 30.0% career rate and limits the walks at 4.9%.

Ryan Madson has been one of the few veterans that the Athletics have brought in for their bullpen that has performed well this year. Madson has posted a 2.66 ERA and 2.99 FIP.

The Oakland offense isn’t bad, but their defense is.

The Oakland offense has hit .235/.302/.428 and 99 wRC+. They are a high strikeout team that hits for a lot of power, and in that sense they are very similar to the Rays.

Yonder Alonso has had the breakout performance for the Athletics offense. In 180 plate appearances Alonso is hitting .295/.389/.660 and putting up a 179 wRC+. With 16 homers this is the first season he has hit double digit homers in the majors.

Khris Davis (120 wRC+) and Ryon Healy (124 wRC+) have helped bring the power with 17 and 13 homers respectively. Jed Lowrie has been the other effective bat at 128 wRC+.

Former Rays Matt Joyce (88 wRC+) and Stephen Vogt (69 wRC+) haven’t been very effective.

Their offense hasn’t been bad. Their starting pitching has been quite good. Their bullpen hasn’t put up good results and their defense might be one of the worst in recent memory. Yesterday at Fangraphs they discussed the disaster that the defense has been.

The Rays need to keep winning series.

The Rays put the Seattle trip behind them by taking care of business against the Chicago White Sox. The extended absence of Kevin Kiermaier certainly makes the road ahead more difficult, but hopefully Mallex Smith will be able to replace at least some of his offensive and defensive contributions. Next in line is the four game series against the Athletics. Just keep winning series and see what happens.