10:00 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Athletics -113, Over/Under: 9.5
Two teams from opposite coasts with opposing destinies meet tonight in the Bay Area, as the Oakland Athletics play host to the New York Yankees in the second leg of a three-game series from the Oakland Coliseum, in Oakland, California. If we had told you that the Yankees (83-43, 1st in AL East) would have put together the best record in the American League despite playing the majority of the Regular Season without the services of All-Stars such as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius, who together have missed a whopping 288 games between them, then you probably would have called us bat@#$% crazy. Nonetheless, New York has once again risen to the top of the American League, thanks in large to a band of unheralded players, that have made names for themselves, namely All-Stars D.J. LeMahieu (.339 BA, 112 G, 156 H, 87 R, 27 2B, 21 HR, 86 RBI, 36 BB, 69 K) and Gleyber Torres (.282 BA, 114 G, 120 H, 80 R, 20 2B, 29 HR, 73 RBI, 43 BB, 97 K), who together have spearheaded a Lineup that has scored more Runs than any team in the Majors (747), while ranking Third in the American League in Batting Average (.272), On-Base Percentage (.345), and OPS (.833). Taking the mound tonight for the Yankees will be J.A. Happ (10-7, 5.40 ERA, 24 GS, 125.0 IP, 136 H, 75 R, 29 HR, 35 BB, 101 K, 1.368 WHIP), following a brief stay on the team’s Paternity List. After dazzling for New York following a midseason trade from the Toronto Blue Jays last season, in which the veteran Lefthander logged a 7-0 record with a 2.61 ERA and 1.052 WHIP, Happ put together a decisively different 2019, authoring his highest ERA (5.40) since he was a rookie way back in 2007, along with a career-high Twenty-Nine Home Runs. Indeed, the 36-Year Old is long removed from winning twenty games back in 2016, but has still managed to prove the value of having a veteran southpaw in the starting Rotation, which has been invaluable for Boone & Co. this season. While they’ve been far from poor, the Yankees’ Pitching Staff has also been far from stellar, particularly in terms of the Starting Rotation, which features just one of their number with an ERA below 4.00. As a whole, the group ranks Sixth in the American League in Team ERA (4.50) Twelfth in Home Runs Allowed (205), Seventh in Walks (390), and Fifth in Strikeouts (1,153). Granted, they’ve gone throughout the season without the services of reigning ace, Luis Severino, who if he does return, it likely won’t be until September at this point as the tow-time All-Star continues to rehab from a Grade 2 Lateral Strain and persistent inflammation in his Right Rotator Cuff. Curiously, General Manager, Brian Cashman, relented from making a move at the July 31st Trade Deadline to acquire another front-line Starter, with names such as Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner rumored to be in play. Either way, the Deadline came and went without a new arm to bolster the Rotation, which means that the Bronx Bombers are stuck with what they have for the duration. When we last saw Happ, he rebounded from a rather rough stretch in which he had yielded Nineteen Runs on Twenty-Five Hits, including Eight Home Runs over the course of 20.0 Innings, snuffing out the struggling Baltimore Orioles in a narrow 6-5 victory. The Lefty was significantly better than his previous four outings, yielding just Two Runs on Six Hits with Six Strikeouts opposed to Three Walks over 5.0 Innings. While he and his fellow Starters have been a constant source of trepidation for the fans, they can rest easier knowing that the Bullpen has consistently proven adept at remedying matters; the Yankees rank First Overall in the Majors with Forty-Eight Saves, with a Bullpen headlined by six-time All-Star Closer, Aroldis Chapman (3-2, 2.36 ERA, 52 G, 35 SV, 49.2 IP, 35 H, 17 R, 2 HR, 22 BB, 72 K, 1.148 WHIP), who is just three away from tying his career-best (38), buoyed by reliable set-up men, Adam Ottavino (5-4, 1.67 ERA, 58 G, 2 SV, 54.0 IP, 38 H, 11 R, 4 HR, 32 BB, 75 K, 1.296 WHIP), Tommy Kahnle (3-0, 2.82 ERA, 58 G, 51.0 IP, 33 H, 18 R, 8 HR, 16 BB, 74 K, 0.961 WHIP), and Zach Britton (3-1, 2.26 ERA, 55 G, 3 SV, 51.2 IP, 35 H, 13 R, 3 HR, 30 BB, 42 K, 1.258 WHIP).
Meanwhile, as their opponent tonight continues to push towards Home Field Advantage, the Athletics (71-53, 2nd in AL West) are simply trying to get into the Postseason. Heading into this series with the New York, Oakland currently finds themselves just one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the final Wild Card in the American League, which remains their only realistic outlet to return to the Playoffs since their Division Rival, the Houston Astros, have established such a sizable lead in the AL West, which is now at eight games. It’s been a tale of two seasons for Bob Melvin’s charges, who after getting off to a dismal 19-25 start, put together a remarkable 38-17 stretch place themselves back into contention. Now, after losing five of six outings, they’ve managed to reroute themselves once more, winning thirteen of their most recent nineteen. In the month of August, the club has seen an improvement from the plate, where they’ve batted a collective .252, with a .336 On-Base Percentage, .450 Slugging Percentage, and .786 OPS. Taking the mound tonight for the Athletics will be Mike Fiers (11-3, 3.46 ERA, 26 GS, 153.1 IP, 127 H, 61 R, 22 HR, 43 BB, 102 K, 1.109 WHIP), who has been a welcome sight for the club every single time he has appeared during their aforementioned run of success. Indeed, Oakland has found that they can count on the veteran Righthander, winning in eleven of his past thirteen Starts. Granted, the 34-Year Old hasn’t been quite as fortunate, earning a victory for himself in only three of his last eight outings, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying a late career renaissance by the Bay. In fact, Fiers hasn’t actually lost a Start since May 1st, with a whopping NINE No-Decisions in the Eighteen Starts since that point. Needless to say, Melvin & Co. will be counting on him more than ever, as their Starting Rotation has been ravaged by injuries, prompting the A’s to make a number of moves at the July 31st Trade Deadline, acquiring a pair of veteran Starters, namely Homer Bailey (10-8, 5.22 ERA, 24 GS, 122.1 IP, 124 H, 72 R, 16 HR, 47 BB, 108 K, 1.398 WHIP) and Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.01 ERA, 24 G,S, 128.0 IP, 135 H, 61 R, 16 HR, 43 BB, 124 K, 1.391 WHIP). While those two arms continue to get acclimated to their new surroundings, it will be up to Fiers to keep the proverbial train rolling. When we last saw him, he was fortunate to escape without a loss in what eventually ended in a narrow 7-6 victory for Oakland, in which he served up FOUR Home Runs over 6.0 Innings of labor. Over the course of his career, Fiers has faced the Yankees on six occasions, going 2-1 despite a 5.06 ERA and 1.375 WHIP.