Marcus Semien (MLB Gifs)

The Yankees return home in search of revenge, facing the Athletics just a week after a sweep in Oakland.

Since They Last Met

Since that sweep, the Athletics lost two games to the Giants at home before heading east and winning three of four in Kansas City. They now lead the Rays by one game in the wild card (two games in loss column) and are 1.5 games back of Cleveland for the first wild card spot. Since they are on a roll, I must mention that Boston is just 5.5 games back of Oakland.

The Athletics have called up a pair of hitters who combined for 64 home runs in Triple-A Las Vegas, Seth Brown and Sheldon Neuse. Neuse has yet to make his debut and should some time this weekend, particularly with Khris Davis on paternity leave and Stephen Piscotty on the IL.

Injury Report

Piscotty sprained his ankle and is on the 10-day IL, while 3B Matt Chapman took a hit-by-pitch to the dome and was out of the lineup Thursday. OF Ramon Laureano is on the 10-day IL and will likely miss this series. RHP Daniel Gossett is on the 60-day IL.

LHP Sean Manaea, their best pitcher last season, is still on rehab assignment as he works back from shoulder surgery.

Player Spotlight: Marcus Semien

Semien is one of the best player development success stories of the last decade, though all that development came at the Major League level. The shortstop was the top piece in the 2014 Jeff Samardzija deal with Chicago and immediately inherited the position in Oakland. However, he was an error machine.

In 2015, he committed 35 errors at short, a pretty even split between fielding and throwing miscues. Though he had the athleticism and talent to man the position, it wasn’t shining through.

The Athletics turned to Ron Washington. Washington, known best as either the manager of the early 2010s Texas Rangers or as the man making a snarky comment in Moneyball, is a fielding guru. After leaving Texas and before joining the Braves, Washington worked extensively with Semien and helped him turn into a Gold Glove-caliber glovesman.

In addition to his turnaround in the field, Semien has exceled at the plate, as the Yankees got to see firsthand last week. Like many players, he’s steadily added power in recent seasons, culminating in a career-best 24-homer year in 2019 with 34 doubles, one away from his personal-high. With contributions on both sides of the ball, he’s a 5+ WAR player by both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, someone who deserves All-Star love.

Projected Lineup

  1. Marcus Semien, SS (.277/.360/.494, 127 wRC+)
  2. Robbie Grossman, RF (.252/.347/.364, 95 wRC+)
  3. Matt Chapman, 3B (.259/.344/.528, 129 wRC+)
  4. Matt Olson, 1B (.261/.344/.517, 125 wRC+)
  5. Mark Canha, CF (.277/.391/.547, 149 wRC+)
  6. Seth Brown, LF (.368/.368/.474, 126 wRC+ in four games)
  7. Sheldon Neuse, DH (.317/.389/.550, 126 wRC+ in Triple-A)
  8. Jurickson Profar, 2B (.214/.292/.405, 83 wRC+)
  9. Josh Phegley, C (.257/.298/.431, 91 wRC+)

On the bench, the Athletics have backup catcher Chris Herrmann (52 wRC+), infielder Corban Joseph (40 wRC+) and utility man Chad Pinder (85 wRC+).

Friday (7:05 p.m. EDT): CC Sabathia (vs. A’s) vs. Brett Anderson (vs. Yankees)

For the first time in four years, Brett Anderson has made 25 starts in a season, and the left-hander has been an effective pitcher for the Athletics. He has a 4.08 ERA in 150 innings with a better-than-average home run rate to buoy his minuscule strikeout rate.

Seriously, his strikeout rate is in the 1st percentile in baseball as the 31-year-old fans just 12 percent of opponents. He is able to win games by keeping the ball on the ground with a GB rate above 50 percent.

However, he’s facing a Yankees team that demolishes lefties. They’ve won their last 13 starts vs. southpaws and the Yankees have traditionally raked against Anderson. With the caveat that the team and Anderson have changed over the years, you have to mention that Anderson has a 6.86 ERA in 40.2 IP against the Yankees. The team hits .339/.384/.508 with seven homers against him.

Anderson (Baseball Savant)

Saturday (1:05 p.m. EDT): Domingo German (vs. A’s) vs. Homer Bailey (vs. Yankees)

Homer Bailey has an opportunity to do something extremely rare: Beat the Yankees three times in the regular season without playing on an AL East team.

The right-hander topped Domingo German in April with the Royals and last week with the A’s. Normally, with the current system, a pitcher will face a non-division team twice in a season, but Bailey’s trade to Oakland in July created this situation.

Bailey has good peripherals in Oakland despite a 5.52 ERA, and he held the Yankees to just one run in the series opener last week. He gave up seven hits and walked none, settling down after a solo homer by Gary Sanchez in the first inning.

Bailey (Baseball Savant)

Sunday (1:05 p.m. EDT): J.A. Happ (vs. A’s) vs. Mike Fiers (vs. Yankees)

Fiers has been the A’s best starter this year and found a way to beat the Yankees in Oakland despite allowing nine baserunners in 5.1 innings. However, there’s reason to believe he won’t be quite as effective this time out.

Fiers is an extreme flyball pitcher, tied for 16th in baseball among qualified starters with a 40.2 percent groundball rate. He’s been able to cull his high home run rate this season, though that should be more difficult at Yankee Stadium (even if it’s played like a pitcher’s park this year).

Fiers has allowed four homers in two career starts at the Stadium. It’s worth noting that he’s been better than ever this season and his 3.40 ERA isn’t a total fluke, even if he’s outpitching his FIP and other indicators. He’s a talented righty who makes up for his lack of velocity, but he could struggle in the Bronx.

Fiers (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Here’s a reminder of who they have in the pen:

RHPs: Liam Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino
LHPs: Ryan Buchter, Jake Diekman, A.J. Puk

The Athletics had to ride their bullpen hard on Thursday, getting Petit, Soria and Diekman each facing four hitters and Hendriks throwing 31 pitches to eight batters to narrowly close the game. Diekman has pitched in back-to-back games.

Petit remains the middle innings fireman while Hendriks closes things out. Puk is the wild card as the multi-inning option who has just a few games to his MLB career after debuting vs. the Yankees.

Treinen has fallen off significantly in 2019, taking another loss Wednesday. Buchter is a LOOGY while Soria and Trivino sit somewhere in middle relief.