The Yankees play the Athletics for three Oakland Nights, then they bash and they bounce.
Their Story So Far
The Athletics are in the thick of the American League wild card race. At 71-53, they trail the Rays by just one game for the second wild card spot. Their Fangraphs playoff odds are 35.0 percent while it’s 46.8 percent on Baseball Prospectus.
For a team you don’t hear much about, this team is capital ‘F’ Fun. Matt Olson is insanely underrated as a slugging first baseman, while Matt Chapman plays all-world defense at third base in addition to his powerful bat. Ramon Laureano, likely to miss this series, is a must-watch center fielder both for his insane highlights and blooper-reel lowlights.
Meanwhile, the A’s pitching staff is a patchwork in the rotation for the second straight season. Mike Fiers is ostensibly their ace, while their best pitcher in the first half — Frankie Montas — was suspended 80 games for steroids and will miss the rest of the year. They added Homer Bailey and Tanner Roark at the deadline. In the bullpen, 2018 Wild Card Game starter Liam Hendriks has taken over as closer in a career season.
As mentioned above, Laureano is on the 10-day IL and will likely miss both Yankees-A’s series. RHPs Marco Estrada and Daniel Gossett are on the 60-day IL.
LHP Sean Manaea, their best pitcher last season, is nearing his return from Sept. 2018 shoulder surgery.
Player Spotlight: Matt Olson
Even in an era of plentiful home runs, sometimes you just want to watch a majestic dinger fly off the bat of a big, tall dude with a good looking swing. Matt Olson is a man of the people in this regard.
For the season, Olson is hitting .262/.345/.532 with 25 home runs and a 132 OPS+ in just 91 games. Since coming onto the scene after hitting 24 home runs in 59 games down the stretch in 2017, he’s flown under the radar as a top-end power bat. He’s also the reigning Gold Glove winner at first base.
Olson would have been forgiven for having a down year in 2019 after he fractured his wrist in the opening series in Japan. Instead, he’s come back with his full power and is a menace in the middle of Oakland’s order.
Platoon Spotlight: Jurickson Profar
Profar, the Athletics’ starting second baseman for most of the season, has had a negligible platoon split for his career as a switch hitter. This season? It’s extreme.
Facing LHP: .304/.353/.418, 102 OPS+
Facing RHP: .176/.246/.370, 61 OPS+
With Corban Joseph available to platoon with him, we may only see him face J.A. Happ and the other Yankees southpaws over the next few weeks.
Stat Spotlight: .247
As you may have heard, A’s slugger Khris Davis has hit exactly .247 in four consecutive seasons, starting in 2015 with the Brewers. It’s become somewhat of a national phenomenon.
The outlook for a fifth straight season is grim. With a little over a month to go in the season, he’s hitting .222 thanks in part to a series of injuries weighing down his play. If he’s gonna hit .247, he’ll need to get hot against the Yankees.
- Marcus Semien, SS (.271/.357/476, 122 wRC+)
- Robbie Grossman, LF (.250/.347/.366, 95 wRC+)
- Matt Chapman, 3B (.262/.346/.534, 130 wRC+)
- Matt Olson, 1B (.262/.345/.532, 129 wRC+)
- Mark Canha, CF (.261/.381/.505, 137 wRC+)
- Khris Davis, DH (.222/.293/.380, 78 wRC+)
- Stephen Piscotty, RF (.246/.309/.405, 89 wRC+)
- Jurickson Profar, 2B (.204/.269/.380, 69 wRC+)
- Josh Phegley, C (.244/.283/.423, 84 wRC+)
On the bench, the Athletics have backup catcher Chris Herrmann (54 wRC+), infielder Corban Joseph (58 wRC+) and utilityman Chad Pinder (93 wRC+).
Tuesday (10 p.m. EDT): Domingo German (vs. A’s) vs. Homer Bailey (vs. Yankees)
The Athletics didn’t go for any high-profile acquisitions at the deadline and instead took fliers on lower-priced veterans, including the acquisition of Bailey from the Royals in mid-July.
The right-hander has an unseemly 6.40 ERA in six starts for Oakland, though he’s actually been much better than that. He’s had two awful starts and four quality starts, including seven scoreless frames against the Giants last time out. Though it was against a slightly different Yankees lineup, Bailey outdueled German in April, allowing just three hits and a run over six frames. https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA201904180.shtml
Bailey sports a low-90s fastball about half the time while working in a spiltter, slider and changeup. The splitter has been his best pitch, getting whiffs on 37.4 percent of swings. Still, Bailey allows plenty of hard contact and is prone for a blow-up start, as mentioned above.
Wednesday (10 p.m. EDT): J.A. Happ (vs. A’s) vs. Mike Fiers (vs. Yankees)
Fiers has been the Athletics’ best starter for about a year now. Though still seemingly the same soft-tossing righty he’s ever been, he’s cut down home runs to a league-average mark and has once again out-pitched his middling peripherals bringing a 3.46 ERA and 4.78 FIP into action.
A flyball pitcher, the Oakland Coliseum was practically made for him with its spacious dimensions. He’s cut down on hard contact from a year ago and is in the 72nd percentile on exit velocity and found ways to excel when behind in the count. For more on his mastery in sticky situations, check out this article from Baseball Prospectus.
As hinted at above, Fiers barely breaks 90 mph with his fastball and sinker, which he throws a combined 52 percent of the time. His high-spin curve is his putaway pitch for strikeouts and he also throws a slider and changeup each at least 13 percent of the time.
Thursday (9:30 p.m. EDT): Masahiro Tanaka (vs. A’s) vs. Tanner Roark (vs. Yankees)
When people think of a quality innings eater, they think of Roark. In four of the five seasons going into 2019, he accumulated at least 180 innings and put up at least 2.0 fWAR. This season, though he’s only had 128 innings, he’s again at 2.2 WAR thanks to a 4.01 ERA and improved peripherals.
Roark won’t overwhelm with his low-90s fastball and sinker, but he’s good at mixing and matching, using those two pitches in unison with a slider, curveball and changeup. He’s had a 0.5 mph uptick on his fastball this season and it’s helped him turn it back into a positive pitch.
Liam Hendriks has emerged as the Athletics’ closer this season after adding velocity and upping his reliance on a high-spin four-seam fastball. The 30-year-old has a 1.54 ERA in 64.1 innings this year.
Athletics top prospect AJ Puk will be called up for his first MLB stint during this series. Normally a starter, he’ll cut his teeth in the bullpen after working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Last season’s top duo of Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino each have below-average ERAs, taking a step back this season. The team has Ryan Buchter and Jake Diekman to handle lefties and sometimes more.
Right-hander Yusemiro Petit has moved into a middle relief/setup role as he puts up a 2.56 ERA over 63.1 innings. He leads the AL in relief appearances with 62. Veteran Joakim Soria has seen some high leverage work despite a 4.79 ERA himself.
All three players from the ill-fated Sonny Gray trade are on the Athletics’ 40-man roster, though not the 25-man. Jorge Mateo has a 99 wRC+ in Triple-A with 22 stolen bases, while James Kaprielian is finally healthy, putting up OK numbers in High-A and Double-A. Dustin Fowler has been in Triple-A the entire season with a 93 wRC+.
Corban Joseph played seven years in the Yankees’ farm system and two games in the Majors in 2013.
Manager Bob Melvin played nine games for the 1994 Yankees while assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete was on the 1996 World Series champs. First base coach Al Pedrique managed at every full-season level in the Yankees’ system from 2013-2017.
Side Note: As my first sentence and video indicate, if you haven’t seen the Lonely Island’s “Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience,” please stop what you’re doing and watch those 30 mesmerizing minutes.