The A’s will get to play two more games at home in a short series versus the Marlins before setting foot on the road once more to take on a couple of contenders in the Yankees and Indians. The A’s issues on the road have been discussed ad nauseam of late, and it will be rather tough to get back on track away from home against the team with the second best record in the American League and the team that made it to the World Series last year. Which makes it all the more important, in the meantime, that the A’s get two more chances to pad their record and stats in front of their home crowd before taking that test. With most of the rest of the division surging after a sputtering first five weeks of the season, the A’s need to take each and every winnable game on their schedule in order to stay competitive into the summer.
The A’s moved from a tie for last, to a half game above the Mariners and into fourth place despite having an off day yesterday.
· Houston: 30-15
· Texas: 24-21
· Anaheim: 24-23
· Oakland: 20-24
· Seattle: 20-25
Last season, the Marlins appeared on the cusp of competing in a division with two expecting to go all the way and two teams hoping to avoid 100 losses on the year. The Marlins had a few superstars on offense, and a young and improving pitching staff that could keep Miami competitive in each game they played. The tragic, senseless death of Jose Fernandez took some of the wind out of the sails for the Marlins, and it is impossible to not wonder what the Marlins, the rest of baseball, and the world would be like if the young star was still with us, but the team picked up the pieces and is now looking to move forward. And a few additions, like Dan Straily to the pitching staff, aside, the Marlins entered this season having not done much over the offseason, returning with, more or less, the same roster they ended last year with. However, this season has not been the step forward that the Marlins were expecting.
Miami is currently mired in last place with the second worst record in baseball, as the pitching staff can no longer consistently find the strike zone and is walking opposing batters, collectively, at a historic rate for any franchise in the MLB over the past several decades. The young offense isn’t improving into a formidable force like was expected of them. Despite the Marlins being on the cusp of competing for a couple of years now, there are now murmurs of blowing up the team and starting over, yet again, with Dee Gordon openly on the trading block and surely many more behind the scenes. There is time for Miami to turn things around, and the core of the team is talented, young, and cost controlled, but if things don’t look better soon, this team may never even get the chance to compete.
Manning first base, Justin Bour has been one of the few bright spots in Miami’s lineup despite not having the pedigree of any of Miami’s outfielders or other youngsters on offense. Since the calendar turned to May, Bour has suddenly started to have success against left handed pitching, something he had yet to do in his career to date, to the tune of a batting average above .370 and six home runs over the last three weeks.
Meanwhile, as the team’s de facto ace, Edinson Volquez has been doing his best Mike Maroth impression to start the year, with a record of 0-6, an ERA approaching 5.00, and 27 walks to 41 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. The Marlins have only won one game that he has started all year, and that was over a month ago in early April. Granted, in six of the eight games he started, the Marlins have scored two or fewer runs, but neither side has done much to help the other in Volquez’s dismal season so far.
5/23 @ 7:05 PM: Hahn (1-3) vs Urena (1-2) on NBCSCA and MLB.tv
5/24 @ 12:35 PM: Gray (1-1) vs Volquez (0-6) on MLBN and MLB.tv
How the A’s Win the Series
It is a rare two-game series for the A’s this week. Due to the wildness of the Marlin’s pitching staff, the A’s will have to practice patience on offense and approach each at bat with a plan of action. This series will be a wonderful opportunity for the A’s to give their homer-happy offense some runners on base to drive in with their long balls. The A’s are in the bottom third in the league in walks earned, and now the A’s have a chance to amend that for a couple games.
The Marlins have a bit of a feast or famine lineup, so if the A’s pitching staff correctly chooses its battles and effectively carves through the struggling bottom half of the Marlins’ batting order, the offense should run into more than enough runs to support the pitching.
These are the games the A’s have to win for the franchise to have a hope and a prayer this year. Anything can happen in baseball, and the Marlins are no slouches despite their struggles and record to date, but it’s not unreasonable to hope for, and assume, a sweep to get the team some momentum and into a positive mental state before heading out on the dangerous road for seven games.