Aug 12, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Mariners @ Athletics
Probable Starters: Felix Hernandez vs. Jon Lester
On paper, this matchup is to die for, and especially at a hitter’s graveyard, one or two runs could easily win the game.
Felix’s dominance against Oakland and at the O.co Coliseum (9-2, 2.72 ERA) is well-documented. That in addition to his Cy Young caliber season should instill fear into anyone.
Lester, on the other hand has a 3.99 ERA in 10 starts against the Mariners, but in 8 games in Oakland, he is much better (3-3, 3.00 ERA). He also has held Robinson Cano, the only Mariners hitter he has faced at least 20 times, to a .246/.293/.319 slash line.
If the game was at Safeco, where Lester has an ERA near 5.00, Felix would have an enormous advantage. As it is, I give him and the M’s, who also have the better bullpen, a slight edge.
The A’s have suffered mightily in the outfield since Yoenis Cespedes left for Boston, but not all of their troubles are necessarily attributable to the Cuban slugger. Craig Gentry, the team’s offseason addition from Texas, has been out since July 27.
While the right-handed outfielder provides no power whatsoever, his average (.264 overall, .273 against lefties) should, once he is fully healthy and re-acclimated, help a lineup that had to re-acquire Sam Fuld at the Deadline.
However, the subtraction of Cespedes puts most of the offensive production squarely on the shoulders of Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, neither of whom have followed spectacular First Halves with any type of success.
If both lynchpins continue to struggle the rest of the way, the gap between the Swingin’ A’s and the anemic M’s will have closed significantly, but short of a complete team meltdown, the offensive advantage still lies squarely with the home team.
Every week, these last two notwithstanding, for the past couple years, it seems that the A’s at least once come back from some absurd deficit to win and leave the opposition devastated.
This was more pronounced in 2012 and 2013, but they still exude a confidence that no lead is safe, and Felix nearly had it happen to him on April 5 at the Coliseum, when he tried to gag up a 3-0 lead in the ninth. The bullpen held on for the 3-1 win, leaving the tying run at the plate, but while watching I, along with most M’s fans, half-expected the game to end with someone in yellow getting mobbed at home plate.
I personally do not trust any team, including Seattle to hang on to any win against the A’s until the final out has been recorded, and though the A’s seem to have lost that “it” factor recently, there is no reason to believe they cannot get it back by October.