A’s look to gain playoff ground as Rangers visit

MLB

The Oakland Athletics proudly welcome the Joey Gallo-less Texas Rangers back to the San Francisco Bay Area on Friday night for the opener of a three-game series, their final head-to-head of the year.

In going 9-7 against the Rangers (51-88) so far this season, the A’s (76-64) have seen two distinctly different versions of the American League West’s last-place team.

When they visited Oakland for a series bridging June and July, the Rangers rode a Gallo explosion to two wins in three games, outscoring the A’s 14-10 in the process. The slugger homered four times in the series, going 6-for-10 with six RBIs.

Gallo had been dealt to the New York Yankees by the time the Rangers returned to Oakland last month, and the A’s took advantage. They swept the three games, limiting Texas to seven runs while running up 22 of their own.

That latter series saw the Rangers introduced to the Athletics’ new weapon, Starling Marte, who terrorized the visitors to the tune of 8-for-15 with five RBIs, three runs, a double, a home run and two steals.

Marte was at it again vs. the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, stealing his 22nd straight base since joining the A’s at the trade deadline. His threat of a steal led to an errant pickoff throw at second base by White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez, allowing Marte to score the go-ahead run in a 3-1 decision.

“He makes everybody nervous,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after his team’s second straight over the White Sox to cap a three-game series. “Whether it’s a ground ball. Whether it’s the potential of a steal. Whether it’s making a pitcher slide-step that gets the hitter a better pitch to hit and makes the pitcher’s command a little worse.

“It’s all the above. Just not the guy you want on base if you’re the other team, especially if it’s a close game.”

Needing every possible win in their come-from-behind bids for a division title or a wild-card playoff berth, the A’s will see the other side of the Gallo trade when they encounter Rangers right-hander Glenn Otto (0-0, 1.86 ERA) for a first time on Friday.

The former fifth-round draft pick by the Yankees in 2017 has made two major league starts since becoming a Ranger, including an eye-catching five shutout innings during a no-decision against the Houston Astros in his major league debut.

The Rangers are coming off a two-game sweep at Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday. They will bring a season-best-tying, four-game winning streak into Friday’s series opener.

“We’re in the business of winning,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said during the Arizona series when asked if getting a high draft pick should be his team’s top priority at this point. “It’s important to instill winning in the organization. We haven’t won since I’ve been here. I take blame for that.”

Oakland is scheduled to counter Otto with right-hander Paul Blackburn (0-2, 4.12 ERA).

The 27-year-old has pitched well at home this season, limiting the Yankees and Seattle Mariners to a total of two runs in 10 2/3 innings.

Blackburn has gone 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in two games (one start) against the Rangers in his career, both in 2019.

–Field Level Media

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