One Bay Area team is creating legitimate postseason odds in their favor, while an NL East team may be running away with the divisional competition.
Oakland Athletics (68-52, 2nd Place AL West, 2.0 GB WC)
The Oakland A’s continue to have an underappreciated season out on the West Coast. Their pitching has truly been the x-factor for this club as they look to secure a wild card spot for the postseason (assuming the 9.5 game lead for the Astros is enough for them to hold).
Mike Fiers started the season with a 7.03 ERA in March/April. From May to August he’s posted monthly ERA’s of 2.87, 2.30, 2.14, and 0.71, respectively. Although he doesn’t strike a ton of batters is out, he’s posting a respectable 6.47 k/9 in the second half of the season. Chris Bassitt has also held his own this season in the A’s rotation. He’s punched out 108 batters in 113.2 IP and has a WHIP of 1.18 as well. His ERA is sitting at 3.56 and trending downward in the right direction, especially after his last start where he pitched seven frames while allowing no runs to the White Sox.
Their offense has provided decent run support as well, with a majority of that production coming from the bats of Matt Chapman, Ramon Laureano, and Matt Olson. While no one on the team has more than 70 RBI’s, those three have combined for 179 of the team’s runs batted in. The A’s are looking to make it to the postseason for their second straight season after losing to the Yankees in the Wild Card game last October.
The A’s traveled to their cross-bay foes in the San Francisco Giants this week for a quick two-game series. Tuesday night, Brett Anderson took the mound for the A’s while Madison Bumgarner got the nod for the Giants. The game started scoreless for the first four innings until Stephen Piscotty blasted a solo shot to put Oakland on the board. Evan Longoria then sliced an RBI double to left field to tie the game at one. Not long after that, Kevin Pillar broke the tie with a double off the wall to bring in Longoria.
Brett Anderson was pulled after six innings, giving up two runs while striking out four. Madison Bumgarner had an impressive outing pitching seven frames giving up just one run and striking out nine. After a sac-fly in the 7th, the Giants took a 3-1 lead. With bases loaded in the 9th, the A’s walked in a run but failed to plate another. The Giants would go on to win 3-2, and Will Smith secured his 29th save of the year.
Wednesday was a whole different story for the A’s. Homer Bailey was outstanding, pitching seven shutout innings while striking out as many batters. Matt Chapman kicked things off offensively for Oakland with a solo homer in the first. Homer Bailey provided for himself with an RBI infield single in the second inning to extend the A’s lead. Matt Olson later on in the third frame drove in two with an RBI double.
Oakland piled it on in the 6th with a two-run homer off the bat of Robbie Grossman. Up 7-0 in the 8th, the Giants scored five runs in the inning, highlighted by a three-run dinger from Mike Yastrzemski. But the A’s would hang on late and win the game 9-5.
Up next for Oakland is a divisional matchup against the Astros at home. With an A’s sweep, they may be back in contention for the division, as they would only be back 5.5 games. Mike Fiers is slated to pitch against Aaron Sanchez on Thursday night.
Atlanta Braves (72-50, 1st Place NL East, 6 Game Lead)
The Braves are going to be a threat for years down the road, and not just for the NL East, but for all of baseball. Being one of the youngest teams in the league, they boast their young pieces like Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies. Both hitters are batting .299 and .298, respectively. While their averages looks similar, Albies is posting a .857 OPS while Acuna is posting a .918. Acuna also leads the team in home runs with 34.
While Albies and Acuna get most of the recognition in this young batting order, Freddie Freeman is their best hitter. In 29 fewer at-bats than Acuna, he has 14 more RBI’s and has struck out 39 less times. Freeman is hitting .308 with an OPS of .964. Not to mention, he is tied for 2nd in the majors with 96 RBI’s.
The Braves hosted the Mets on Tuesday in hopes of cooling them down as they stormed back up the standings and make a legitimate case for a postseason run. Zack Wheeler was on the mound for the Mets and got shelled. He gave up 12 hits, but the Braves were only able to turn that into five runs in his five innings of work. Max Fried had a great evening, giving up just one run in his six innings pitched.
Ronald Acuna hit the only home run of the night in solo form in the fourth inning. Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson both had efficient nights at the plate, going 2-3 and 3-4, respectively, while both driving in a run. Ender Inciarte and Matt Joyce also both drove in one run a piece as the Braves took game one, 5-3.
Both starting pitchers had great games on Wednesday night. Steven Matz pitched six innings while giving up just one run and punching out five. Dallas Keuchel bested him for the Braves, as he too went six innings but gave up no runs and struck out seven. Amed Rosario had a productive night in the leadoff spot for the Mets. He went 4-5 with an RBI and a run scored at the dish.
Ender Inciarte had the most productive stat line for the Braves, going 2-3 with two RBI’s and a run. At the top of the lineup Acuna and Albies both went 1-4 with an RBI a piece. Thanks to a five-run 7th inning, the Braves squeaked by the Mets, 6-4.
The series finale will be featured in tonight’s slate of games as Marcus Stroman will face Julio Teheran in what should be a fantastic pitching matchup.
Waiver Wire Targets
J.D. Davis, New York Mets (28.2% owned/ESPN)
Davis has had a big part in this exciting run for the Mets. So far in August, he has an OPS of 1.190 with four homers and 11 RBI’s. He can play the outfield as well as third base, so his utility adds to his value. His .381 average this month is the reason he is being claimed in more and more leagues. Make sure to add him to your roster since he’s becoming a valuable piece in this Mets lineup.
Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants (44% owned/ESPN)
The Giants right-hander is dealing this month and putting together one of his best seasons, if not his best season, in the majors. In the second half of the season, he’s posting a 2.27 ERA with 35 K’s over his 35.2 innings pitched. In his most recent start, he pitched eight innings against the Phillies while allowing just two hits (one being a solo homer) and walking none. His 0.84 WHIP in the second half makes him a fantastic pickup.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.