A six-game road trip this week could determine just how serious the Oakland Athletics are about remaining in the playoff chase.
The A’s are trying to catch the Houston Astros in the American League West Division standings and the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race. Oakland begins its journey with three games in Detroit, starting on Tuesday, then heads to Toronto for a weekend series.
Oakland won its last two games against the New York Yankees on Saturday and Sunday after dropping the first two games of the four-game set. The A’s ended the Yankees’ 13-game winning streak.
“I wanted to finish August strong. … This road series in Detroit and Toronto is going to be big for us,” infielder Tony Kemp said. “Good series split right there for sure.”
Kemp hit a clutch two-run home run in the eighth inning of the Athletics’ 3-1 victory on Sunday.
“Just ended up being a big series for us,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “You don’t normally talk about a success when you split a series. But when you’re down 0-2 to a team that won 13 in a row, we’ll take it.”
Left-hander Cole Irvin (9-12, 3.68 ERA) will start for the A’s on Tuesday. Irvin pitches to contact — he has struck out only seven batters in four August starts.
Irvin lasted just three innings, his shortest outing of the season, on Aug. 24 when he gave up three runs on seven hits to Seattle. The Mariners have scored 11 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings against Irvin this season.
“They’re finding something that works for them,” Irvin said. “It’s just trying to find what that is. If I’m not tipping pitches and they’re just having good approaches, I’m not doing a good enough job of keeping them off-balance. I know in certain counts I’ve given them some cookies to hit. I just haven’t pitched them well this year yet.”
Irvin pitched very well against the Tigers on April 17. He tossed six scoreless innings and allowed only four hits during the Athletics’ 7-0 victory.
That was part of a four-game sweep in which Oakland outscored Detroit 21-6.
Tarik Skubal (8-11, 4.01 ERA), who has been impressive this month, will start Tuesday for Detroit. Skubal racked up 10 strikeouts in five innings at St. Louis on Wednesday but wound up with a no-decision. He yielded two runs on three hits and a walk.
“He was awesome, that’s the bottom line,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “And we’ve seen that out of him, so I’m not the least bit surprised.”
The rookie left-hander has given up just four runs in 22 2/3 innings over four starts this month (1.59 ERA) while walking three batters and striking out 27.
Detroit enters the series with a three-game losing streak, including a 3-2 setback in a makeup game against the visiting Minnesota Twins on Monday afternoon. The Tigers’ last six games have all been decided by one run, and Detroit has scored only 13 runs while going 2-4 in that stretch.
“We had a mixture of at-bats today,” Hinch said Monday. “There were some that were pretty good. There were some that, quite honestly, we gave away early in the at-bat.”
–Field Level Media