The Yankees are absolutely riding high as they hit their West Coast trip this week, heading out to Oakland on an 11-game winning streak, their longest since 1985. They are 3 games ahead of Boston for the first wildcard spot, and are chasing Tampa for first place in the East, just four games back. The Oakland A’s are also in the hunt, a mere 1.5 games behind Boston, so this upcoming three-game set is important to both teams trying to cement their status as postseason contenders.
Their Story So Far
The Athletics are coming into this series on a 4-game losing streak and are 2-8 in their last 10, but overall this season have been formidable. They bounced back from a 1-7 start at the beginning of April with a 13 game win streak, and have capably rivaled the Astros for much of the season. Their recent slump has them 4.5 games behind Houston in the West, but even the red-hot Yankees shouldn’t underestimate Bob Melvin’s squad.
The A’s have been unspectacular but above-average on both sides of the ball, with a 109 staff-wide ERA+ and a 103 OPS+. Their lineup has been bolstered by Matt Olson, who’s having a fantastic year with 32 home runs and a 161 OPS+, and Starling Marte, who has slashed .353/.391/.490 since being traded from the Marlins last month. The rest of their offensive, while not putting up eye-popping numbers, has been overall solid.
The starting rotation of Cole Irvin, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, and James Kaprelian are all pitching to sub-4 ERAs, and prior to his injury Chris Bassitt had a 3.22 ERA and 12 wins, tied for the league lead. Closer Lou Trivino has 21 saves, despite blowing his last two opportunities, and Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman, and the eternal Sergio Romo have capably held down middle relief.
The A’s are not really a powerhouse by any means this year, but despite their recent slump are fundamentally solid. They have the third-fewest errors in the majors, and allow the third fewest runs per game in the AL. The Yankees’ recent success has put them in a good position with regards to the playoffs, but the A’s are right there with them in the standings and should not be an easy matchup.
|Cole Irvin||SP||Hip||Out until at least late August|
|Stephen Piscotty||RF||Wrist||Out until at least early October|
|Mike Fiers||SP||Elbow||Out until at least mid-September|
|Jeff Criswell||SP||Undisclosed||Out until at least August 28|
|Chris Bassitt||SP||Face||Out until at least early October|
|Parker Dunshee||RP||Collarbone||Out for the season|
|Trevor Rosenthal||RP||Hip||Out for the season|
Spotlight: Frankie Montas
Frankie Montas, a relatively unheralded 2012 international Red Sox signing out of the Dominican Republic, is having what appears to be a long-awaited breakout season after a career full of ups and downs. After getting a big league cup of coffee with the White Sox in 2015, he struggled in his first season in Oakland in 2017, pitching to a 7.03 ERA over 32 innings. In 2019, he looked poised to have a breakout year as a starting pitcher, beginning the season with a 9-2 record and a 2.70 ERA, but took an 80 games suspension for PED use for the rest of the season. He was back in the A’s rotation in 2020, but struggled, averaging nearly 4 walks per 9 innings pitched and finishing the shortened season with a 5.60 ERA.
Montas has had something of a 2021 resurgence, currently holding a 3.84 ERA over 25 starts. His strikeout numbers are excellent, at over 10 per 9 innings, and his walks have been cut back significantly, as his walks-per-9 rate has fallen to 2.6. One of the major shifts in his game has been increasing reliance on his splitter and four seam fastball, which now account for a total of 60% of his pitches, and reduced use of his sinker and slider. His fastball is pretty elite, averaging 96.4 mph and eliciting a 23.5% whiff rate; his splitter this year has induced a 53% whiff rate. For a strikeout-heavy team like the Yankees, that’s definitely something to keep an eye on during Saturday’s game.
Montas’ best start this season was arguably last week against the Giants, holders of the best record in baseball, as he went 7 shutout innings and struck out 9.
Oakland A’s projected starting lineup via RosterResource.
- Mark Canha, RF (.235/.364/.394, 115 OPS+)
- Starling Marte, CF (.363/.400/.500, 153 OPS+ in 24 games with Oakland)
- Matt Olson, 1B (.278/.373/.560, 160 OPS+)
- Jed Lowrie, 2B (.254/.329/.405, 107 OPS+)
- Matt Chapman, 3B (.221/.317/.395, 100 OPS+)
- Mitch Moreland, DH (.230/.286/.420, 97 OPS+)
- Josh Harrison, LF (.255/.328/.364, 96 OPS+ in 16 games with Oakland)
- Sean Murphy, C (.224/.318/.420, 107 OPS+)
- Elvis Andrus, SS (.230/.277/.309, 66 OPS+)
RHP Jameson Taillon
Jameson Taillon is coming off his two “worst” starts in a while, as in his last two appearances he has gone 5.0 and 5.1 innings respectively and surrendered three earned runs in each start. Not bad for relative clunkers. Overall, Taillon has been rock solid since June and currently sits 8-4 with a 3.94 ERA.
RHP James Kaprielian
Yankees draftee James Kaprielian is having a nice rookie year, going 7-4 with a 3.25 ERA over 16 starts. He’s given up more than three earned runs in only two starts all season, and in his last outing he gave up one run over five innings in a win against the Giants.
RHP Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole has been back to his best self since coming off the COVID IL earlier this month, throwing a combined 11.2 innings over two starts, surrendering only one run, and striking out 15. He leads the league in WHIP, strikeouts, and wins.
LHP Sean Manaea
Sean Manaea, usually reliable, has hit a rough patch lately – the last time he completed 6 or more innings in a start was late July, and the only August start in which he completed 5 innings was also one in which he surrendered 7 earned runs. Last week in San Francisco he surrendered 2 runs in 4.2 innings and struck out 3.
LHP Nestor Cortes Jr.
Nasty Nestor, after spending most of the beginning of the season as a reliever and an “extended opener” rarely throwing more than 4 innings, has now gone at least 5 in each of his last five starts, throwing a season-high 7 innings and 104 pitches last week in a win against Minnesota. In his last start, he struck out seven and surrendered only two runs.
RHP Frankie Montas
Frankie Montas’ last start against San Francisco was excellent, as he pitched 7 shutout innings with 9 strikeouts despite getting a no-decision and the team taking a loss. Montas has a 10.1 K-per-9 rate this year and induces a lot of swings and misses, something to watch for with a high-strikeout Yankees team.
LHP Jordan Montgomery
Jordan Montgomery joined Cole on the COVID IL for the first half of August, but has been solid in two starts since his return. His stuff in his last start against the Braves was not his best, as he walked four batters and struck out only two over five innings, but he limited damage to one run and picked up the win in a 5-1 Yankees victory.
RHP Paul Blackburn
Paul Blackburn has only started two games and thrown 11 innings this year, as he steps into the rotation to replace the injured Chris Bassitt. This is the fifth consecutive season in which Blackburn has made an appearance in the Majors, but in none of those seasons has he pitched in more than 10 games.
Both teams are coming off of off-days coming into this series.