When and where: August 15, 2019, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA, 10:07 PM ET
The top-two teams in the AL West will collide when the Oakland Athletics prepare for a much-anticipated head-to-head showdown with the Houston Astros. There is still a hill to climb for the A’s as far as wild card contention is concerned, but they could easily make up some ground, along with closing the gap on first place in their division, with an upset win over the Astros this weekend. Aaron Sanchez is slated to start at pitcher for the Astros on Thursday opposite of Oakland’s Mike Fiers.
Cole dealing with a hamstring injury
Although the Astros played terrible on offense, some would be quick to point out the team falling at the hands of the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday was due to starting pitcher Gerrit Cole being a late scratch from the game. It’s a bad argument considering they lost on Wednesday as well.
One of the key veteran arms for the Astros’ rotation, Cole was benched after reporting a right hamstring injury during warmups. Obviously, the team wasn’t going to chance a start with one of their best players deep into the second half of the season.
The injury doesn’t seem too serious, and Astros manager A.J. Hinch was thankful to receive the opportunity to err on the side of caution.
“We’ll get him tested even further and see where this takes us,” said Hinch, via ESPN.com. “He doesn’t think it’s that serious. I’m glad he told us, and we hope that it’s mild. It was literally a couple of minutes before the game.”
Sanchez is next in the rotation for Thursday’s colossal showdown with the A’s.
Since his arrival in Houston, the former Toronto Blue Jays starter has won back-to-back games against the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners, while allowing no more than one earned run and combining for a no-hitter against the Mariners. He is throwing a 5.60 ERA and 1.60 WHIP on the season with a 5-14 record.
Erratic play must smooth over for the A’s
With all the talent in the American League, it’s becoming less likely the A’s will break through for a playoff run. The likelihood of them catching the Astros has reached levels of impossible at this point, unless the reigning AL West champions suffer a meltdown for the ages. However, the A’s should be more concerned with out-playing the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians in hopes of securing a wild card spot.
They won’t be able to achieve that feat if they continue to play inconsistently down the stretch. Since beating the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, the A’s are 3-4 in their last seven games. That’s an ugly stretch for a potential playoff contender in mid-August. They currently sit in second place in the AL West division with a 68-52 record—nine losses behind the Astros.
Fiers will be first up on the mound in the series-opening game against the Astros on Thursday. The eight-year veteran pitcher is coming off a seven-inning shutout win over the White Sox in a game where he racked up eight strikeouts. He is throwing a 3.30 ERA in 147.1 innings with an 11-3 record, and he hasn’t been handed a loss since May 1.
- Astros are 2-5 in their last 7 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15.
- Astros are 1-3 straight up in their last four games.
- Astros are 1-3 straight up in their last four games on the road.
- Athletics are 7-1 in Fiers’ last 8 starts after allowing 5 runs or more in their previous game.
- Athletics are 5-1 in Fiers’ last 6 home starts.
- Athletics are 5-1 in Fiers’ last 6 starts with 5 days of rest.
- Athletics are 9-2 in Fiers’ last 11 starts following a Quality Start in his last appearance.