Oakland A’s Weekly Preview – Week 15
Jeff Samardzija joins Sonny Gray in a loaded starting pitching staff for Billy Beane’s A’s, who are now “all in” on a World Series victory.  (Ben Margot, AP)

The Oakland Athletics are now, officially, all in on winning the World Series this season and/or next.  Billy Beane pulled off a stunning trade this week that brought in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs.  Almost immediately, Samardzija went right to work for the A’s, who completed the sweep of the Blue Jays to move their record to 55-33 - the best in MLB, despite being swept earlier in the week by the Detroit Tigers.  

Beane has the A’s positioned as the favorites to win it all this season.  The club already had the best record in baseball before Friday night’s trade.  Expectations are even higher now in the Bay Area due to the incoming talent.  While Beane said the trade was in the works before the series with Detroit, the end result of that series likely made the offer that much more palpable.  

The week ahead for Oakland calls for a four game series against Bay Area cohabitant San Fransisco Giants and then a trip up to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Mariners.  

The A’s and Giants will each host two games during the series.  The Giants will come into the series neck and neck with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.  The team’s struggles are on the offensive end, ranking in the bottom half of MLB in runs, batting average, and on- base-percentage.  

Good news for A’s fans is that they will get to see an old ace back on the mound for the opposition as Tim Hudson is scheduled to start the series finale in San Francisco against Scott Kazmir.  While this is a primetime matchup, it would have been particularly intriguing to see Hudson match up with Sonny Gray in a showdown of the old bulldog vs. the new.

Here are the expected pitching match-ups for the series:

Monday, 7/7 vs. San Francisco, 7:05pm, Ryan Vogelsong (5-5) vs. Jesse Chavez (6-5)

Tuesday, 7/8 vs. San Francisco, 7:05pm, Madison Bumgarner (9-6) vs. Sonny Gray (8-3)

Wednesday, 7/9 @ San Francisco, 7:15pm, Jason Hammel (8-5) vs. Matt Cain (1-7)

Thursday, 7/10 @ San Francisco, 12:45pm, Scott Kazmir (10-3) vs. Tim Hudson (7-5)

Predictions: Expect the better team to win the series and the A’s to take three of four against their Bay Area rival.  

The A’s will head up the Pacific coast to take on the Mariners in a three game weekend series.  The teams have met ten times thus far this season and have been evenly matched up, splitting the overall match-up with five victories apiece.  The Mariners are playing well at eight games over .500 but will need to do more in order to catch the A’s and Angels in order to make a push towards the playoffs.  

Despite the signing of Robinson Cano and his strong production, the Mariners are lacking power in their lineup.  Cano and Kyle Seager lead the team on the offensive end, but  when looking up and down the full lineup, opponents know there are weaknesses to exploit.  

Here are the scheduled pitching matchups for the weekend series:

Friday, 7/11 @ Seattle, 7:10pm, Jeff Samardzija (1-0) vs. Felix Hernandez (10-2)

Saturday, 7/12 @ Seattle, 7:10pm, Jesse Chavez (6-5) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (6-4)

Sunday, 7/13 @ Seattle, 1:10pm, Sonny Gray (8-3) vs. Chris Young (8-4)

Predictions: Look for the A’s to celebrate with their own fireworks and take three of four against the Blue Jays, further widening their lead in the American League.    

Who’s Hot?

Stephen Vogt continues to make the most of his opportunity with his increased time on the field.  Vogt entered Sunday’s game hitting .391 over the past seven days.  He added to that on Sunday, going 2-for-4, including a triple.  Contrary to the norm of playing in the Oakland Coliseum, Vogt is hittng a remarkable .361 at home this season.  Coco Crisp was out of the starting lineup on Sunday for a day of rest but has been hot since returning from injury.  Crisp is hitting .333 over the past week.  Even when making an out, Crisp has been making good contact and has just missed on several occasions over the same time period.  

Since being roughed up by the New York Mets on 6/24, Scott Kazmir has bounced back with two solid outings, giving up two ER’s in 12+ IP’s.  He has moved his record to 10-3 and is third in the AL with a 2.53 ERA.  Tommy Milone hasn’t lost a decision since 5/3 and the A’s are 9-2 in games he has started since that start in Boston.  

Who’s Not?

Sean Doolittle had back to back blown save opportunities against the Marlins and the Tigers but has rebounded nicely during the series against the Blue Jays.  However, the loss against the Tigers was a crushing blow to a franchise that has been bounced out of the playoffs the past two seasons by Detroit.  Somehow, someway, Jim Johnson remains on the Athletics roster.  His performance in Detroit on 7/2 stapled his role as a relief pitcher to be used only when absolutely necessary.

John Jaso was one for his last 15 entering Sunday’s game.  Despite this, he replaced Coco Crisp at the top of the A’s lineup on Sunday and went 2-for-3 with an RBI. 

A’s Roster Movement

Earlier in the week, the A’s also activated left-handed relief pitcher Eric O’Flaherty and designated relief pitcher Jeff Francis for assignment.  O’Flaherty comes off of the 60 day DL and gives the A’s that much more strength out of the bullpen.  

With the acquisition of Samardzija and Hammel, the A’s had to make a few roster moves.  The team decided to option starting pitchers Tommy Milone back to the minor leagues (Sacramento, PCL) on Saturday.  At the time of this publication, the team has yet to announce the second roster move that needs to take place in order to make room for Jason Hammel.  However, it seems likely that the move that makes the most sense is to designate Brad Mills for assignment.  However, you never know with Billy Beane.

Samardzija held his introductory press conference during the early innings of Saturday's game.  A's fans are likely to be ecstatic when you listen to his work ethic and desire to take the mound ...

"I was supposed to pitch today, so I'm a day past my due date to pitch. I'm chomping at the bit. I don't think there's any better way to get acclimated than to do it on the mound. It was a no-brainer for me, and I look forward to it."