The Oakland A’s are set to take on the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for the first time since early June. This is will be the first of three series between these two teams that will take place from now until the season ends. With the A’s and Angels battling for first place in the AL West, these games will be the most important games the Athletics will play before the end of the season. These games will ultimately determine who will win the West.
In this weekend series, Sonny Gray, Jon Lester, and Scott Kazmir will take the mound for the Oakland A’s. The Athletics have decided to skip Jason Hammel’s start, which would have been Sunday. Since these games extremely important, it makes sense to skip Hammel since he has been performing so poorly. It may make even more sense to replace him in the long run.
Regardless, the Oakland A’s will have three solid pitchers on the mound. Even though Gray has been a bit shaky lately, his pitbull like attitude tends to help him overcome previous mishaps. Gray just needs to make sure he maintains control over his fastball and does not leave it up over the plate. Gray is accustomed to high pressure situations from his experience pitching in the postseason in 2013, and he tends to succeed under such pressure. Gray will hopefully break his four game losing streak in Friday night’s game.
Lester has been great for the Oakland A’s since coming from the Boston Red Sox at the end of July. Even though he earned the loss in his last outing, Lester was able to pull out a W in his first three games with the A’s. In the past three years he has only pitched three times against the Angels. However, he has a 2-1 record against them and has only allowed six runs in 21 innings pitched. Lester is driven to win and will do anything in his power to help the Oakland A’s earn another W.
Kazmir looked solid against the New York Mets in his last start on Tuesday, but he will have to rise to the occasion after being bumped up a day in the rotation to fill in for Hammel. Kazmir has been the most consistent pitcher in the Oakland A’s starting rotation this whole season. He has provided stability throughout each game he has pitched and is probably the only pitcher in the rotation who will not be disrupted by filling in for Hammel. With a 14-5 record this season, Kazmir can hopefully make it 15-5 on Sunday.
Even if the pitching is solid throughout the weekend, in order for the Oakland A’s to win against the Angels they need to produce runs. At .249, the Athletics are currently 18th in the MLB for batting average while the Angels are 5th. It could be the fact that the Athletics feel as though they need to compensate for losing Yoenis Cespedes’ bat in the lineup, but its more than that. The bats that were hot before the All-Star break, like Brandon Moss and Derek Norris, are just not hot anymore.
In the last seven days, Moss has been batting .125 with only two hits over 16 at-bats. Norris’ batting average has dropped dramatically from the mid .300s back in early July to .283. He is only batting .212 with a .255 on-base percentage for August. Josh Donaldson is currently carrying the team offensively and has the most RBI, hits, and home runs out of all the A’s players.
This slump in offensive production will hopefully pass soon. After the All-Star break, it seemed as though the only time the Oakland A’s scored was when someone hit a homerun. But in these past two games against the New York Mets, the Athletics look as though they are reverting back to their green collar ways and getting on base by any means possible. Throughout the series, the Oakland A’s did show some signs of life with 16 hits and 11 runs.
Last night, the Angels’ ace Garrett Richards seriously injured his knee at Fenway Park. Even though he was not going to be pitching in this series, some think that this will open the door for the Athletics to slide past the Angels and resume the AL West lead. However, one pitching change will not effect the Angels that much. As seen with the Oakland A’s who have changed their starting rotation countless times throughout the season, the team will rally together make up for what is lost with Richards now out.
The Oakland A’s have had two days off in the last four days. Hopefully this will give them the down time they need to refocus. This upcoming series against the Angels will either break or make the Athletics. It will be a stressful series but if the Oakland A’s can win, it will be thrilling.