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Series Preview: A’s and Rays to offer quality baseball this week

These four games will be an interesting test for both teams.

Minnesota Twins v Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays look to rebound from a sluggish start to their ten game homestand with a four game set against the Oakland Athletics.

The Athletics season got off to a rough start after dropping the first six. Sitting at 1-7 they ran off a 13 game win streak that was ended yesterday by the Baltimore Orioles. They now sit at 14-8 and look to be a formidable foe.


Monday 7:10 PM: Sean Manaea vs Rich Hill
Tuesday 7:10 PM: Frankie Montas vs Michael Wacha
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Cole Irvin vs Tyler Glasnow
Thursday 1:10 PM: Chris Bassitt vs Ryan Yarbrough

The Athletics sit with a good record despite lackluster pitching performances to date. As a team they have posted a 4.45 ERA/4.10 FIP/4.18 xFIP.

Sean Manaea has gotten off to a very good start with a 3.04 ERA/3.34 FIP/3.78 xFIP. All numbers that are better than his career rates. He was hit around in his first start allowing five runs in 4.2 innings, but since he has allowed three runs over three starts going at least six innings in each outing. In his last start, Manaea held the Minnesota Twins scoreless over 7.0 innings. Manaea’s velocity is up about one mph across the board early in the season. He throws a sinker that averages 91.4 mph as his primary weapon of choice around 60% of the time. He throws his 80 mph curveball around 15% of the time. Against right handed batters he will throw a mid 80s changeup, but rarely throws it against left handed batters. In his career right handed batters have fared better with a .314 wOBA compared to a .264 wOBA by right handed batters. This year batters have put up similar numbers with a .314 wOBA by right handed batters and .260 wOBA by left handed batters.

After being Oakland’s best starter in 2018-19 posting a 3.13 ERA/3.36 FIP/3.92 xFIP, Montas has gotten off to a slow start in 2021, where he’s put up a 6.75 ERA/5.40 FIP/4.33 xFIP. He avoided walks (5.8%) and has kept his strikeout rate (23.3%) in line with his career numbers, but has allowed five homers, and had two blow ups allowing six plus runs in his four starts, but in the other two starts he allowed one run or fewer. Montas uses a 95.9 mph sinker as his primary weapon approximately 50% of the time. He will split the other half with a 96.5 mph four-seam fastball, 89.2 mph slider, and 87.8 mph split-finger changeup. He will use all four pitches against batters from both sides of the plate.

Cole Irvin was acquired for cash considerations from the Philadelphia Phillies this winter. In 45.1 innings with the Phillies in 2019-20 he posted a lackluster 6.75 ERA/5.09 FIP/4.98 xFIP. However his fortune has turned around in 21.0 innings with the Athletics. He’s put up a 3.86 ERA/3.57 FIP/4.15 xFIP. He doesn’t get many strikeouts (18.3%) but he doesn’t walk many either (3.2%). He has limited the walks more than he has in the past, but he’s always been above average. Irvin’s HR/FB rate is down to 9.1%. He throws a 91.0 mph sinker and four-seam fastball that he splits evenly to combine for almost 60% of his pitches thrown. He throws a changeup and slider as his off speed weapons of choice. He will very occasionally throw a curveball. He has yet to throw a left on left changeup.

Chris Bassitt was part of a big trade for the Athletics that has made a big impact in their recent past. The Athletics received Bassitt and Marcus Semien from the Chicago White Sox for Jeff Samardzija in 2014. Since 2018. Bassitt has been a very good starter putting up a 3.37 ERA/4.06 FIP/4.52 xFIP over 283.0 innings, but he has been hounded by health issues. He is below average at getting strikeouts (20.3%) and has put up an average walk rate (8.2%). Where he has has excelled is BABIP (.287) and HR/FB rate (9.6%). Bassitt throws a 93.0 mph sinker and 94.1 mph four-seam fastball that combines for almost 60% of his pitches. He throws a 89.4 mph cutter about 25% of the timea nd then will sprinkle in a 85.5 mph change, 73.8 mph slider, and 71.4 mph curveball.

Oakland’s bullpen has been mediocre early in the year with a 4.31 ERA/4.17 FIP/4.32 xFIP. Jake Diekman, JB Wendelken, and Yusmeiro Petit have provided a strong back end of the bullpen. Former Rays releivers Sergio Romo and Adam Kolarek are on hand but have struggled.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics
Sergio Romo in Green
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Oakland’s offense looks pretty similar to the Rays.

Oakland has hit .218/.311/.388 and put up a 106 wRC+ and scored 101 runs. The Rays have put up a 104 wRC+ and scored 102 runs. These are solidly in the top ten so far this season.

Matt Olson has gotten off to a scorching start hitting .319/.392/.638 and has put up a 193 wRC+ while leading the team with six homers. Mark Canha (154 wRC+) and Jed Lowrie (149 wRC+) have provided most of the help.

Stephen Piscotty (115 wRC+) and Ramon Laureano (112 wRC+) have been solid. Laureano has been running any chance he’s been given and leads the team with eight stolen bases.

Big names now on the A’s are not making waves yet. Matt Chapman has started very slowly hitting .158/.275/.342 and has put up a 82 wRC+. Elvis Andrus has not hit putting up a .162/.210/.203 line and 18 wRC+ over 81 plate appearances.

Two similar teams face off at Tropicana Field.

Despite records that aren’t the same both teams are very similar. Both have sneaky strong offenses while pitching that has been mediocre.

It’s very difficult to win a four game series. Especially when the teams are evenly matched. Hopefully the Orioles stopped the Athletics hot streak yesterday. A series split against a good team would be a good outcome here for the 11-11 Rays.