Probably not too many of you circled this late July series between the Athletics and the Orioles as one that would have immediate implications in the American League wild card race - I certainly didn't. However, that is exactly what we are getting. The A's actually have a 1.5 game advantage over the O's right now, and there's also Detroit that is half a game out of the second spot. So the A's want to win to hold on, and the O's need to win to get back in one of the hot spots.
If the Orioles are a surprising team, Oakland must be even more surprising. The A's PR game notes sheet even helpfully informs me that Oakland has the best record since June 2 in all of baseball - their 31-15 beats New York (AL) by one game in the loss column. They will be looking to continue this scorching hot pace behind Jarrod Parker tonight. Parker is one of their many surprising starters. He's made 16 starts for the Athletics this year and has a 3.00 ERA in that time. That's pretty good. Does he benefit from playing in the
Mausoleum Colosseum? That may be the case. Parker's ERA in home starts is 2.28 and on the road it's 4.08 - but that's not terrible in either scenario.
Who the heck is Parker and what does he do? Well, he is a 23 year old righty and if Fangraphs pitch values are to be believed, his best pitch is a changeup that scouting reports describe as a "circle change" - but he also has a fastball and slider that are at least slightly above average. 76 strikeouts in his 99 innings is not extreme, but it's respectable and of course the O's always have potential to do that a lot. On the other hand, he has 42 walks, so maybe sometimes he has problems locating.
If you haven't heard, Matt Wieters is sitting out tonight with a sore bicep or something or other. It's a case of the he kind of stinks right now, is what it is. He's told the reporters that "he hopes it is a one to two day sitting out" rather than two or three weeks. However long it takes him to get right.
Zach Britton will be pitching for the Orioles. This will be his third start of the year. One of them was good and one of them was not. You know the drill. Oakland's got a 16-18 record against lefties, so, meh. It doesn't mean anything. If he pitches well then he will succeed against the worst lineup - oh, no, sorry, I take that back. There was a while where Oakland was below .300 in OBP but now they are up to .304, which is in fact better than the .302 team OBP of the Orioles. Man, this offense sucks. Pitcher's duel? Who knows?
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||OAKLAND ATHLETICS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Coco Crisp - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Jonny Gomes - DH|
|Jim Thome - DH||Josh Reddick - RF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Yoenis Cespedes - LF|
|Chris Davis - LF||Chris Carter - 1B|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Brandon Inge - 3B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Derek Norris - C|
|Omar Quintanilla - 2B||Brandon Hicks - SS|
|Taylor Teagarden - C||Jemile Weeks - 2B|
Seriously though, you look at these lineups and you wonder why either one of these teams is in anything remotely resembling contention. Baseball, man. It's ridiculous.