The Oakland Athletics will bid for their first home sweep of the season on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Texas Rangers when a pair of All-Stars duel in the series finale.
The A’s recorded 5-4 and 3-1 wins in the first two games of the series, getting a combined 12 innings of five-hit ball from starters Cole Irvin and James Kaprielian.
It’s been just enough to allow Oakland to hand the Rangers their fifth and sixth losses in the past seven games.
Left-hander Martin Perez (7-2, 2.68 ERA) will be tasked with sending Texas off to Seattle on a happy note. He certainly enjoyed himself at Tuesday’s All-Star Game, retiring the side in order in the fifth inning for the American League.
The Rangers had won 12 of Perez’s last 13 starts before a 6-5 home loss last Thursday to the Seattle Mariners. He didn’t get a decision after allowing just one run in five innings. He hasn’t been charged with a loss since his first two starts of the season.
The 31-year-old pitched twice with no decisions against Oakland earlier this season, limiting the A’s to one run in 13 innings. He’s gone 8-7 with a 4.66 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts) in his career versus the Athletics.
Oakland managed just six hits against five Rangers pitchers Saturday but put up three runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Nick Allen almost single-handedly produced the run in the seventh inning. He singled before using a quick break on a short wild pitch that also resulted in him taking third on a throwing error. Allen then used an alert tag-up on a foul fly ball to left field.
“We’re on the right track, playing good as a team,” he said. “Everyone in the clubhouse is fired up for each other. We’ve just got to keep going.
“Our starting rotation has been tremendous.”
A’s righty Paul Blackburn (6-5, 3.62) will be riding a similar high as Perez when he opposes his All-Star Game teammate. Oakland’s lone representative in the game pitched a scoreless fourth at the midseason classic, an outing highlighted by retiring Albert Pujols on a fly ball.
Blackburn is winless in his past five starts, going 0-3 with a 7.46 ERA.
The 28-year-old faced the Rangers on July 13 in Texas, taking the loss after allowing five runs in six innings in a 5-2 defeat. He has never beaten the Rangers in his career, going 0-2 with a 10.54 ERA in four games, including three starts.
Major-league scouts have flocked to the first two games of the series, interested in seeing the top available talent on teams that are considered to be likely sellers at the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Oakland’s Frankie Montas, who did not pitch in this series, and the Rangers’ Perez likely are at the top of the list.
Texas manager Chris Woodward kept the door open for a possible Perez deal when he addressed his club’s long-range pitching plans earlier this week.
“We have a ton of talent,” he assessed of his potential starters. “There are a lot of options that are going to be coming up. It’s almost like there is going to be a surplus of really talented arms. It will be good to hopefully enjoy those spoils.”
–Field Level Media