Opposite dugout: Power-packed A’s in hunt for AL West crown, wild card

Thumbnail image for Oakland-Athletics-LogoManager: Bob Melvin (8th season)

Record: 87-57

Last 10 games: 7-3

Who to watch: 3B Matt Chapman (.280 with 22 HR, 53 RBIs), 2B Jed Lowrie (.274 with 21 HR, 89 RBIs), RF Stephen Piscotty (23 HR, 74 RBIs), DH Khris Davis (41 HR, 108 RBIs), 1B Matt Olson (25 HR), RHP Mike Fiers (11-6, 3.36 ERA), RHP Blake Treinen (37 saves, 0.93 ERA).

Season series vs. Orioles: 3-0

Pitching probables:

Sept. 11: RHP Mike Fiers (11-6) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (5-15), 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Sept. 12: TBA vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (4-14), 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Sept. 13: TBA vs. RHP TBA, 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the A’s:

The battle of the vowels makes its yearly appearance at Camden Yards - assuming, of course, that the weather issues associated with Hurricane Florence don’t complicate the schedule. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to have an American League West team make its only appearance in Baltimore in mid-September, when games count for teams still in the pennant race and less schedule flexibility due to the advanced stage of the season? The A’s are still trying to hunt down the Astros in the West, trailing the division leaders by only three games, and are currently in possession of the second wild card, with a healthy lead over the fading Mariners. This means all three games of this series are important to the A’s, and every effort will be made to get the contests in - even if that means long rain delays while waiting for the proverbial weather window to open or dreaded doubleheaders (at least manager Bob Melvin has an expended roster at his disposal). The A’s have charged back into the postseason picture by going 53-21 over their last 74 games, cutting into an 11-1/2 game deficit, and have been hot of late, winning four in a row and six of seven overall. Manager Bob Melvin will probably win the AL Manager of the Year Award for the turnaround.

The A’s have morphed into quite the homer-happy club, which is odd, considering the cavernous home part in which they play. One more blast and they will hit 200 for the sixth time in club history. Designated hitter Khris Davis is leading the majors with 41 longballs, two off his career high, and already has 110 RBIs, two off matching his career best. Seven other A’s have reached double digits in homers, led by first baseman Matt Olson (25), right fielder Stephen Piscotty (23), third baseman Matt Chapman (22) and second baseman Jed Lowrie (21). Lowrie’s 89 RBIs are a new career high, Chapman leads the majors in doubles (20) and extra-base hits (35) since the All-Star break, and Piscotty is batting .359 (14-for-39) during an 11-game hitting streak. The A’s are batting .265 with an average of 5.49 runs a game on the road this season, and both marks are better than their performances at Oakland Coliseum.

The Orioles were interested in sighing righty Mike Fiers, who starts tonight’s series opener, as a free agent in the offseason, before he inked a deal with the Tigers and was traded in August to the A’s. Since the deal, Fiers is 4-0 with a 2.94 ERA in six starts; he hasn’t lost since July 13, when he absorbed a 3-0 defeat to the Astros in Houston. He’s 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles - all of the games coming at Camden Yards, and he lost his only start against Baltimore this year in a 6-0 game on April 27. The A’s have not yet listed starters for the final two games of the series, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see right-handers Chris Bassitt and Edwin Jackson get the nod in those games. Bassitt has helped solidify an injury-wrecked rotation with 39 2/3 innings of 3.40 ERA ball this year. He’s ridden the shuttle between Oakland and Triple-A Nashville all season, but is 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA in his last five games, including four starts. He’s prospered against the Orioles in his career, with a 1-0 record and 1.80 ERA in two lifetime starts. The A’s are Jackson’s 13th team in a 16-year career, and he signed with them in June after pitching at the Nationals’ Triple-A Syracuse affiliate. In 14 games, Jackson is 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP that is well below his career average. He’s 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA in eight games since July 30. Against the Orioles in his career, he’s got a 6-1 record and 3.06 ERA in 11 games (nine starts). At Camden Yards, he’s 301 with a 4.55 ERA in six games (five starts).

All-Star closer Blake Treinen has been a ninth-inning savior for the A’s, saving 37 games in 41 tries with a 0.87 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, both career best marks.

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