The Athletics have had a tough go of it lately, going just 7-7 in the month of August thus far. 5 of those 7 losses have been at the hands of the red-hot Kansas City Royals, a potential playoff team. Luckily for the Athletics, they are due for another interleague series, which they are 10-2 in so far this season. Added to this, the series is against the Atlanta Braves, who are struggling mightily heading into the series with Oakland, having dropped 12 of 15, including a 3-game sweep at the hands of the San Diego Padres earlier this month.
In other good news, the Braves don’t have any former Athletics on their roster besides Aaron Harang, who is not scheduled to pitch this series.
Freddie Freeman. This is the player the A’s must approach carefully. He leads his team in batting average (.294), on-base percentage (.381), OPS (on-base plus slugging)(.868) and hits (137). Freeman is generally slotted in the 3-hole, with power-threat Justin Upton hitting right behind him. Upton leads the team in home runs (21) and RBI (72).
Truth be told, this is the extent of the Braves offense. Atlanta ranks 28th in baseball in runs scored with 448. The two teams beneath them are St. Louis (445) and San Diego (390).
Pitching matchups for the series are as follows:
After a rough start to the Oakland portion of his career, Hammel has had two good outings in a row, his last being the most impressive. Sonny Gray always feels like he will provide a solid outing, and there are zero questions about Jon Lester’s ability.
The questions come in the form of the A’s offense. Outside of the 11-run outburst on Tuesday night in KC, the A’s managed just 5 runs in 3 games. While this isn’t exactly the output that A’s fans would like to see, there is still some fine lining to go along with this. There is no chance that Jon Lester, the A’s ace acquisition, will be facing Jeremy Guthrie in the playoffs. He will get the other team’s best shot. At that point, the A’s offense will not have to be dominant, just efficient.
Getting back on track, A’s hitters have been staggering their slumps, which has been hurting the offense for a prolonged period. Earlier this month, it was John Jaso, Brandon Moss and Stephen Vogt. Since Moss came out of his slump, he has been raking yet again, going 7 for 12 (.583) with 4 RBI and 2 walks in the series against the Royals.
Derek Norris has been struggling however, and he is one of the unsung cogs that keeps the offense moving. Norris is mired in an 0-14 slump currently. Look for Norris to start against lefty Alex Wood, and bust out of his slump. On the season, Norris is hitting .346 against southpaws. The lefty on Friday night could be just what the Dr. ordered.
The series against the Braves will most likely be another low-scoring affair, outside of Sunday’s matchup with Mike Minor on the mound. In two starts against the Padres (July 27th and August 1st), Minor gave up 8 earned in 11-2/3 innings. Again, the Padres have the worst offense in the majors by a large margin.
In Friday’s contest, Jason Hammel continues to improve, this time against the Braves. His line will be 7 IP, 5 hits, 1 earned and 2 walks. When Hammel is on, he gets the ball down in the zone, and induces lots of grounders. This will be the key for him on Friday night.
A’s sweep the series, and all will be right in the world.
If you have any other predictions, let us know!