When last we saw the Oakland A's, it was Opening Day in the far east, a two-game set in Tokyo best remembered as Ichiro's last games as a player. The M's swept that brief series, and since then the Athletics have had a run of mini-streaks—win a few, lose a few, win a few more, lose a few more. They've essentially played like the world expected the Mariners to play when the year began, as a slightly less than .500 club with a lot of problems.
Of course, these are the A's, and whatever oddities are in the Oakland Coliseum water seem to drive the A's to overachieve on an almost annual basis. So never count them out. Just last Tuesday, pitcher Mike Fiers, he of the 5.48 ERA and 1.239 WHIP, no-hit the Cincinnati Reds despite having to throw over 130 pitches to do it. Weird things happen when you play the A's.
That said, this is a beatable team. They have no .300 hitters, their road ERA is a composite 5.43, and with Matt Olson slumping have been depending on the tin glove of Kendrys Morales at first base. They do, however, have Matt Chapman, one of the best all-around players in the game today; historically, the Mariners have handled Chapman quite well (.185/.269/.370 career vs. Seattle), but best not to underestimate him. Shortstop Marcus Semien is also having a decent season (.278/.372/.407), but after that things get ugly for the Oakland lineup. DH Khris Davis still brings big power, but offers little else. The bullpen, last year's mega-strength for the A's, is rather ordinary so far in 2019. Closer Blake Treinen, while still effective, isn't nearly the force he was last season; and while Yusmero Petit and Lou Trivino are as good as ever, the rest of the 'pen is not, particularly or old friend Fernando Rodney, currently holding an 8.16 ERA.
Oakland will send Fiers and lefty Brett Anderson to the mound in these two games, to be opposed by Yusei Kikuchi and Mike Leake. Fiers was the Athletics' opening day starter in Tokyo and lasted just three innings vs. Seattle, giving up five runs; Anderson has yet to face the M's this year but had three starts against them in 2018, all no-decisions (161⁄3 IP, 7 ER). Meanwhile, Kikuchi and Leake are both coming off of excellent starts in New York against the Yankees.
Players to Watch
Matt Chapman: Oakland's best all-around player, 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 .312/.395/.621; in losses, just .209/.284/.367. 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, batting an anemic .185 in 32 games.
Marcus Semien: The veteran A's shortstop is having the best season of his career so far, batting 25 points above his career average and nearly 60 above his career OBP. He's been slumping of late, though, batting just .159 since April 30th. While not a gold-glove caliber defender, Semien is a competent shortstop on an Oakland team historically lacking in quality defense, though last year they had excellent glovemen on the corners with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson.
Khris Davis: The defensively-challenged Davis is well-suited for a DH role, where he figures to be all year. The free-swinger is the only Athletic besides Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx to post back-to-back 40+ homer seasons, which he's done twice now with three consecutive campaigns of 40+. He's also struck out 536 times in those three seasons, and last year his K:BB ratio was over 3:1 discounting intentional walks, a ratio that continues in 2019.
Bob Melvin: Melvin has proven to be well-suited to the East Bay 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, which is a solid leader that has brought Oakland to the playoffs four times in eight years.
Kendrys Morales: Traded to the A's from Toronto this past March, Morales has been a bust so far for Oakland. The two-time Mariner was acquired when regular first baseman Matt Olson was injured in the Tokyo series and someone was needed to man the position and, hopefully, hit a few extra-base hits; instead, Morales has been little more than a warm body on the right side of the diamond, batting just .204/.310/.259 and already committing a pair of errors.
With the Mariners in 2013, Morales declined a free-agent contract offer to return and held out for a better offer that never came. He eventually signed with Minnesota, who then traded him before the July 31 deadline back to Seattle, which must have been humbling. He didn't come close to repeating '13's .277 avg., 23 HR, 80 RBI performance, putting up a terrible line of .207/.285/.347 with the M's in 2014. He's since gone on to have one good year, 2015, in Kansas City before steadily declining over the next three seasons, playing mostly as a designated hitter.
|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|