The Oakland Athletics open their final series of the regular season Friday night against the Texas Rangers, hoping to better position themselves for at least one more home game during the American League playoffs.
Having won eight of nine, the A’s (92-61) begin play Friday with a two-game lead over Tampa Bay and Cleveland in the three-team battle for the two AL wild cards. The Rays (vs. Boston) and Indians (vs. Philadelphia) also play at home this weekend.
Oakland not only has two teams to worry about, but also the health of right-hander Mike Fiers (14-4, 4.09 ERA), who left his most recent start at Texas on Saturday with numbness in his pitching hand.
Fiers would be a candidate to pitch the AL wild-card game should the A’s get that far and earn the home-field advantage. He is 8-1 in Oakland this season and 12-3 at the Coliseum for his career.
A’s manager Bob Melvin feels so good about Fiers’ health, he announced Wednesday that Chris Bassitt has been removed from the rotation and will pitch out of the bullpen.
The move coincided with news that reliever Blake Treinen won’t pitch the rest of the regular season because of back issues.
The fact that the A’s had been using a six-man rotation following the recent return of Sean Manaea gave the club the option of moving a starter to the bullpen.
“The way guys are pitching — Manaea back in the rotation — we need some more depth in the bullpen, and Bassitt was the first one that volunteered to do it and was all for it,” Melvin said. “So he’s going to do whatever he can to help the team.”
The A’s have won 11 of 16 from the Rangers this season, including 14-9, 8-6 and 6-1 victories in a three-game sweep last weekend in Texas (74-79).
Oakland even won the game in which Fiers had to leave early, getting home runs from Matt Chapman, Josh Phegley and Mark Canha against Mike Minor to pull out a two-run decision.
Minor (13-9, 3.33 ERA) gets a rematch in Friday’s series opener. He has pitched in Oakland four times in his career, twice as a starter, producing a 1-2 record with a 3.95 ERA.
He’s 2-3 with a 4.83 ERA in his career overall against the A’s in eight appearances (five starts), while Fiers has gone 3-3 with a 6.50 ERA against the Rangers in 12 games (11 starts).
One guy Fiers won’t have to deal with is Rangers slugger Joey Gallo, who hopes to return before season’s end following surgery on a broken hamate bone in July.
Gallo has two career homers against Fiers in just 14 at-bats.
Texas manager Chris Woodward initially left the door open for Gallo, who had been rehabbing in Arizona, to join the team in Oakland. But Gallo was sent back to Texas to under further examination on his hand, with Woodward saying Wednesday that Gallo now might play next week at home against the Boston Red Sox.
“I know it doesn’t feel good when he’s swinging,” Woodward said. “I want him to play. I know he wants to play. But it’s just one of those things: Does it make sense?
“If he can’t play early in that Boston series, then we might just shut him down.”
–Field Level Media