Oakland Athletics vs Philadelphia Phillies: Series Preview


Sep 9, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics’ Record: 83-69, 45-30 at home, 2nd place in AL West

(The Athletics presently hold the second American League Wild Card seed)

Philadelphia Phillies’ Record: 70-83, 34-41 road, 5th place in NL East

Season Series: The two clubs have not met this year but the A’s are 8-5 against the NL East this season. The Phillies are 6-7 against the AL West this year.

The Oakland Athletics had winning months from April through July, and the seemingly indestructible Athletics were positioned atop all of baseball. Their destination (the playoffs) was clearly in sight. But then the “Titanic” A’s slammed into an iceberg and have been sinking ever since. As rough as August was for the team, September has been worse. The Phillies season unofficially ended awhile ago, while the Athletics are trying to prove they are worthy of the postseason and patch up their ship before it sinks for good and they fail to reach the postseason. The unfortunate reality is that though the A’s have not been playing postseason contenders, they have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Phillies went 4-6 in their last 10.

The Athletics enter this critical interleague series desperately fighting to maintain hold of a Wild Card seed. The have slipped from the World Series favorites to clinging to the second Wild Card seed by only 1 game above the Mariners. The A’s trail the Royals for the top seed by half a game. The Wild Card picture is slimming out quickly. The Angels and Orioles have clinched their respective divisions, leaving the Tigers and Royals fighting for the Central and the top Wild Card seed. The Mariners are lurking, and though they have similar problems as the Athletics, they just won’t go away. Other potential threats include the Indians, and Yankees, or the very unlikely Blue Jays and Rays.

Schedule and Pitching Match-Ups

Friday, September 19, 6:35 PM PST: Jon Lester, LHP vs David Buchanan, RHP

Saturday, September 20, 1:05 PM PST: Drew Pomeranz, LHP vs Jerome Williams, RHP

Sunday, September 21, 1:05 PM PST: Scott Kazmir, LHP vs A.J. Burnett, RHP

Friday, September 19, 6:35 PM PST 

Jon Lester, LHP (15-10, 2.45 ERA) vs David Buchanan, RHP (6-7, 3.75 ERA)

Beane wanted Lester this season because he has proven his ability to dominate, and he has possibly even exceeded expectations since being acquired by Oakland. He has a 2.30 ERA from his first 9 starts, and a 1.64 ERA from his last 3 starts with the A’s. Lester’s last start was 9/14 in Seattle, wherein he pitched 6.0 innings allowing 0 earned runs. The Athletics cannot waste another Lester start! They must score runs and score them early.

On July 10th, Buchanan had a 4.40 ERA, before being sent down to the minors. He was recalled about a month later and has since lowered his season ERA to 3.75. He received a no-decision from his last start against the Marlins, allowing only 1 earned run over 6.1 innings. He has a 2.20 ERA from his last 3 starts. Buchanan is a decent pitcher, but may be humiliated when matched up against Lester.

Additional Games with Wild Card Implications

  • Detroit Tigers @ Kansas City Royals: Friday, September 19, 5:10 PM PST

Justin Verlander, RHP vs Jason Vargas, LHP

  • Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros: Friday, September 19, 5:10 PM PST

Taijuan Walker, RHP vs Brad Peacock, RHP

Saturday, September 20, 1:05 PM PST 

Drew Pomeranz, LHP (5-4, 2.53 ERA) vs Jerome Williams, RHP (5-7, 5.03 ERA)

Pomeranz will get an opportunity to start on Saturday, due to Jason Hammel missing his turn in the rotation to attend the birth of his daughter. Pomeranz may not be able to pitch deep into games, but he is consistent. He has a 2.53 ERA and 1.16 WHIP for 2014. And we all love his “dirty” breaking ball!

While the Athletics and Phillies have not yet met this year, Williams does have a 3.46 ERA against the A’s this season.  This is because Williams has been in a U-Haul a couple times this year. Williams has pitched for 3 teams this season, finally settling with the Phillies, but pitched against the Athletics while with the Astros and Rangers. During a start with the Rangers, Williams pitched 6 innings, allowing 1 earned run and 5 hits. He’s also pitched 7 total relief innings for the Astros against the A’s. He gave up 5 runs, 4 earned runs, and 10 hits, including 1 home run.

Williams’ 5.03 ERA for the season is a bit deceiving. Williams has recently pitched 7.2 innings, allowing 0 earned runs, and had another start that went 8.0 innings, with only 1 earned run. This will be an interesting pitching matchup, as both pitchers have filled the roles of starters and relievers this season. In fact, neither has started more than 10 games this season. It may be hard to predict this game, but my confidence is with Pomeranz.

Additional Games with Wild Card Implications

  • Detroit Tigers @ Kansas City Royals: Saturday, September 20, 10:05 AM PST

Max Scherzer, RHP Vs James Shields, RHP

  • Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros: Saturday, September 20, 4:10 PM PST

Chris Young, RHP vs Dallas Keuchel, LHP

Sunday, September 21, 1:05 PM PST
Scott Kazmir, LHP (14-9, 3.44 ERA) vs A.J. Burnett, RHP (8-17, 4.40 ERA)

The season started off very impressively for Kazmir, but he severely struggled throughout August, a trend that appears to have carried over into September. Since the beginning of August, he’s had 9 starts, 6 losses, and 1 no decision and only 2 wins. Those stats dramatically differ from his 10 starts throughout June and July; he had 6 wins, only 1 loss, and 3 no decisions.

Kazmir showed promise on September 11th against the White Sox, pitching 8 innings with only 1 earned run. In the end, the A’s lost due to ZERO run support and the game concluded 1-0. The Athletics can win if Kazmir can recreate that performance, or pitch like he had prior to August, and the bats can knock in a few runs (which feels nearly impossible lately).

The silver lining is that while Kazmir has struggled, Burnett has been equally as bad. He also started 9 games since the beginning of August, racking up 7 losses, and 2 wins. The 37-year-old will require surgery in the offseason for a hernia. Reports indicate he may be dealing with an unknown additional injury as well. Kazmir’s 15th win continues to elude him. His last win was a month ago (August 19th). His last 5 starts resulted in 4 losses and 1 no decision.

Additional Games with Wild Card Implications

  • Detroit Tigers @ Kansas City Royals: Sunday, September 21, 11:10 AM PST

Rick Porcello, RHP vs Jeremy Guthrie, RHP

  • Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros: Sunday, September 21, 11:10 AM PST

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs Collin McHugh, RHP