How did this happen? The A's were supposed to be a sub-.500 team this year, but somehow or other, here they are in the postseason mix, currently holding down a playoff position as a Wild Card team. As recently as the middle of June they were a sub-.500 team. But ever since the A's went down to San Diego and beat the Padres on June 19th, they've been on the plus side of .500, eventually climbing to an astonishing 22 games over break-even, where they sit going into this series.
Oakland doesn't exactly have a murderers' row lineup or a staff of Cy Youngs. Their top hitter is third baseman Matt Chapman, a solid on-base asset with doubles-power, and Kris Davis provides tremendous home-run drives when he isn't striking out. Otherwise, their aggregate batting numbers are, you know, not bad. Pretty decent. On the mound, they've got a competent starting staff led my Sean Manaea, who's recovered from a poor May (7.14 ERA in six starts) to be the Oakland ace, but the strength is in the bullpen. The Athletics' relief corps was pretty good as it was—setup man Lou Trivino has been pitching to a sub-2.00 ERA all year, and closer Blake Treinan has been under 1.00 for most of it—but as the July 31 trade deadline approached, they got better, adding erstwhile New York Met closer Jeurys Familia. That was bad enough, but A's GM Billy Beane got greedy and hasn't stopped adding arms. Since August 5th, Beane has worked the waiver wire and traded for former Mariners Shawn Kelley and Fernando Rodney for the 'pen and Mike Fiers for the rotation. Oakland relievers are 30-9 and they lead the league in save percentage.
The area were they could be counted on to excel in the early going was making errors; not coincidentally, the Athletics' surge into contention accompanied a newfound respect for defense. Which just means they're now below average instead of god-awful with the leather; shortstop Marcus Semien (always among the league leaders) is second in the AL with 19 errors and Chapman has 13, so grounders to the left side can still be an adventure.
For the Mariners' part, coming off a four-game sweep of the Astros has them in much better spirits than they'd been in for a few weeks previous and they match up pretty well with the A's right now. Monday sets Marco Gonzales against Manaea, Tuesday James Paxton vs. Fiers, Wednesday Mike Leake vs. Brett Anderson. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy has been a thorn in the side of all three Seattle starters and Leake has painful history with several A's, but the Mariner lineup hasn't exactly been intimidated by Oakland's scheduled three.
|MARCO GONZALES VS. OAK (CAREER)
|rest of team||30||.107||.167||.107||0||3|
|James Paxton vs. Oak (Career)
|rest of team||34||.129||.206||.161||0||1|
|Mike Leake Vs. OAK (Career)
|rest of team||47||.111||.213||.311||1||3|
|SEAN MANAEA VS. SEA (CAREER)
|rest of team||37||.273||.351||.455||1||4|
|Mike Fiers vs. Sea (Career)
|rest of team||28||.240||.286||.440||1||1|
|Brett Anderson vs. Sea (Career)
|rest of team||10||.000||.000||.000||0||0|
Players to Watch
Matt Chapman: Oakland's best all-around hitter, Chapman has been something of a barometer for the A's—when he hits, they win; when he doesn't, they lose. In A's victories, Chapman has a line of .309/.397/.606; in losses, just .193/.268/.342. So if you can keep this guy off the bases, you should be in good shape. So far in his brief career, he's not done particularly well against the Mariners, posting an anemic .122/.185/.203 line that hopefully will continue—and correlate with more losses.
Jonathan Lucroy: The veteran backstop is having the worst season of his career in terms of batting numbers, and is particularly challenged at the Oakland Coliseum. For 2018, Lucroy is batting .229 at home, which is actually better than his career average of just .219 in Oakland (160 at-bats). Fortunately for him, he's well-regarded behind the plate and this year's crop of catchers as a whole haven't put up very good batting numbers, so the free-agent-to-be shouldn't have any trouble staying employed.
Khris Davis: Now relegated to DH, the defensively-challenged Davis can focus completely on his hitting. The free-swinger has gone yard 85 times in his first two seasons in Oakland, while also striking out 361 times. He's the only Athletic besides Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx to post back-to-back 40+ homer seasons and with 34 bombs going into this series he's well on his way to a third consecutive year.
Bob Melvin: Now entering his seventh full season as manager of the A's, Melvin has proven to be well-suited to the Oakland environs. His quieter, more laid-back approach wasn't appreciated in Seattle after we all had gotten used to the energetic antics of Lou Piniella, and despite success with the Diamondbacks, he was canned out of frustration in Phoenix, where it was suggested he was scapegoated by then-GM Josh Byrnes because of poor results by Byrnes' player acquisitions. Oakland, though, appreciates what it's got, having given the two-time Manager of the Year a contract extension through 2019 and denied the Yankees permission to interview Melvin when they were looking to hire a new manager last winter.
Fernando Rodney: Ah, yes, how well we remember the Fernando Rodney Experience. In 12⁄3 seasons with the M's, 2014-15, Rodney saved 64 games, but he did it in adventurous fashion, particularly in 2015. Somehow he only blew six saves that year before he was traded to the Cubs; his 5.68 ERA suggested he was nothing but kerosene on a fire in the ninth inning. Now 41, Rodney began the season in Minnesota and did pretty well, posting an ERA just a hair over 3.00 and notching 25 saves over 46 appearances. He's been with the A's for just a few days at this writing, coming over in a waiver trade on August 9th.
|Oakland Athletics||(1968 - present)|
|World Champions:||1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989|
|League Champions:||1905, 1914, 1931, 1990|
|Division Titles:||1971, 1975, 1981, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2013|