RECORDS: A’s 64-48 Cubs 60-51
GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 7:05, Wednesday 1:20
TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday
WELCOME TO OAKLAND, BITCH: AthleticsNation
In some ways, this is a Paula Abdul special, though we can’t find her cartoon cat (yeah, I know, dated. But that video was manna for any adolescent boy so go fuck yourself. We certainly did!) One team has a lockdown bullpen and doesn’t strike out much. The other has a forest fire of a pen that’s now hurt and strikes out a ton.
There are similarities too, as both teams are plus defensively (usually) and hit a ton of homers, and with the air hot the next couple days there shouldn’t be any shortage of that.
The A’s come in having just done the Cubs a favor by taking four of five from the Brewers and Cardinals last week, sending the Cubs into first place even though they were inserting various digits into their own anus for part of the week. They’re also a half-game back of Tamps for the second wildcard spot, and two-and-a-half games behind the Indians for the top one. They won’t catch the Astros (no one will, probably) and that’s generally where you find the A’s. Unable to run with the big boy finances but able to cobble together a team of misfits and whatsits to earn a best of the rest tag before those misfits and whatsits have to get paid and fuck off to other pastures.
This version of the A’s comes in with a pretty incredible infield defense, highlighted by Matt Chapman at third. He’s the best defensive 3rd baseman in the league, though his bat hasn’t quite followed this year as it did last thanks to some fiendish BABIP Kung Fu Treachery and a lack of line-drives. Marcus Semien has become quite the shortstop (it’s ok Southsiders, you have Tim Anderson and his cardboard hands now), and Matt Olson is no slouch at first. Jurickson Profar has not been the discovery they were hoping for at second though. The outfield isn’t quite up to par, especially with Laureano hurt as he is now. Piscotty has returned, but really, what does that mean? Oh that’s right, three homers for the former Cardinal because that’s the way of things.
Offensively the A’s hit a ton of homers and walk a lot, both top-10 in MLB. That’s kind of been their thing for what, 20 years? It’s more of a solid outfit than a spectacular one, but Semien, Chapman, Olson, and Canha make for a spiky top of the lineup.
The pitching is where it gets abstract. There isn’t a starter here you’d piss on if they were on fire, especially now that Frankie Montas is in PED Detention. Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey, Chris Bissitt, and Tanner Roark are basically asked to not burn the house down for five innings, and they’ll turn it over to their pen from there. This may change one day if Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk ever stay healthy, and both of them might buttress the staff in some fashion in September.
But it’s the pen that’s the real strength, and has remained so even though last year’s main star, Blake Treinen, struggled earlier in the year. Liam Hendriks and his vegamite have come to the rescue as closer, and along with Joakim Soria, Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino, recent pick-up Jake Diekman, and a host of others the A’s can get nine to 12 outs from their pen on a nightly basis. And they usually have to. It’s not a strikeout/doomsday platoon out there aside from Hendriks, but they don’t walk guys and they let the defense do their thing. It’s clearly effective.
For the Cubs, more bad news on top of the piece that Willson Contreras is out a month. Craig Kimbrel felts some vermin in his knee on the weekend and he’s on the IL. So if you’re going to ask who is going to close games for the Cubs…please don’t. They’ll probably have to figure it out as best they can, and none of it is going to be pleasant. We’re all in this together.
The Cubs have been aces of the universe at home, going 10-2 since the break. But the A’s are hardly pushovers and have their own stakes, and then the Cubs head out on the road for 10, and there won’t be much of a margin for a mass fuck-up like last time. Should be a fun one on the Northside.