You remember Edwin Jackson. He used to pitch for the Diamondbacks. Or was it the Cubs? I think it was the White Sox, actually. Or the Rays? Wow. Wait — he started on the Dodgers. In 2003! And he’s pitched for all those teams and more over the past 15+ seasons. Tomorrow, he’ll face the Giants for the 13th time in his career (12th as a starter).
That’s right. The Oakland A’s. The ol’ team across the bay. Moneyball and free ticket night and Mt. Davis and the 1989 World Series. Yep. Those guys. And they’ve got some other familiar faces on the team, too. Remember Santiago Casilla? How about Yusmeiro Petit?
The Giants have held all these team reunions to honor 60 years in San Francisco, but these unintentional in-season reunions always seem to have a little more juice. This series in particular has some juice as it’s absolutely crucial that the Giants continue winning at home as they try to stay in the playoff race. StubHub has tickets all weekend long for as low as $15-$25. For a popular series like this in San Francisco, that’s a bargain!
Jackson, Casilla, and Petit’s A’s are 18-5 over their last 23 games following a 4-game losing streak that included a sweep at home against the Astros in the middle of June. They’re finishing up a 4-game series in Houston today. They’ve won 2 out of 3 games there so far, the one loss (so far) the result of one of the worst baseball plays you’ll ever see, and which Grant wrote about here. How are the A’s doing it?
With youthful talent. Sort of like how they always do it.
This particular rebuild cycle for the Oakland Beanes has been strong. It’s not quite like 2014, when they had a huge star like Yoenis Cespedes or another marquee name like Josh Donaldson, it’s actually better. At least right now.
The team OPS+ is 106. That 2014 team ended at exactly 100. Their two Matts at the corners (Olson and Chapman at first and third, respectively) have combined for 29 home runs and up the middle, 34-year old Jed Lowrie (the same age as Edwin Jackson) and Marcus Semien have combined for 23 home runs (with Lowrie doing most of that work with 16). Khris Davis at DH already has 21 home runs, making it 106 home runs and counting since the A’s traded for him before the 2016 season. He’ll likely play the outfield this weekend.
All the way around the A’s can hit the ball hard and fairly often (9th in the AL and 14th in MLB for strikeout rate at 22.5%), but their defense has been suspect. While the metrics place them in the top third (FanGraphs loves their defense, hates the Giants’) the news of the first month of the season (and that post Grant wrote earlier in the week) was about their defense and we know, historically, that Marcus Semien hasn’t been great at shortstop, so, there’s precedent for seeing weakness there. But, I say all that without acknowledging the great work Matt Chapman has done all season long at third base.
You might not know the names of the A’s starting pitchers, generally, but did you know that, due to injuries, their current rotation includes two former A’s who are back with the team for second stints? Sean Manea, the lefty they acquired from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist trade of 2015, leads a pack of Edwin Jackson and those two former A’s, Trevor Cahill and Saturday’s starter, Brett Anderson. The Giants have seen all three of these pitchers multiple times over the past 3-5 years and will get the chance to do so in this series and the next in Oakland. What that means for outcome is to be determined.
It’s with their bullpen that the A’s can really put the hammer down. They’ve got Yusmeiro Petit ready to bewilder the Giants with nostalgia magic and Santiago Casilla keen to prove to Bruce Bochy that he was put out to pasture too soon. It’s a tough pen that will no doubt be tough against the Giants if the A’s get the lead.
Closer Blake Treinen has allowed 5 earned runs in 46 innings (0.98 ERA), allowing only 1 home run. Now, he plays in the same division as the Astros, Angels, Rangers, and Mariners, all teams with home run power hitters throughout their respective lineups. They haven’t been a problem so far. Can the scrap Giants infield single-groundout to advance the runner-wild pitch to get the runner to third-sacrifice fly their way to a blown save? We’ll find out.
Hitter to watch: Stephen Piscotty is 1-for-12 (a home run) against Jeff Samardzija in his career and 0-for-2 with a walk against Madison Bumgarner. If he gets the start in Saturday’s game, it could go a long way towards helping those trade rumors about Jeff Samardzija being available. He’s also having a good season (113 OPS+) and seems like the type of hitter who could thwart Madison Bumgarner’s attempt to pitch a shutout or a no hitter or at least go 7 great innings.
Pitcher to watch: The Giants have struggled against lefties this season and Brett Anderson will be making only his sixth start of the season. We’ll find out which one is the immovable object and which the unstoppable force on Saturday.
Prediction: Giants win 2 out of 3. All three games will be too boring to warrant the Battle of the Bay festivities.