The Oakland Athletics hope a third consecutive win over the visiting Houston Astros will produce better news than the past two days did when the American League West rivals wrap up a three-game series Sunday afternoon.
The A’s put themselves on the doorstep of a series sweep with a 2-1, walk-off victory on Saturday, a game that ended with Elvis Andrus falling flat onto home plate in serious pain as he scored the game-ending run.
Andrus suffered an injury to his left ankle while rounding third base on his trip from first to home on Starling Marte’s game-winning double. The Oakland shortstop managed to limp home, but he got no farther before having to be tended to by the Oakland training staff.
He was taken for X-rays afterward.
“Look, we won a game. That’s good,” a somber A’s manager Bob Melvin noted a few minutes later. “We may lose one of our toughest guys. We’ve got our fingers crossed it’s not something significant.”
Another piece of bad news came shortly thereafter, when the New York Yankees completed a 5-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. It meant, for the second straight day, despite winning, the A’s (84-71) gained no ground on the Yankees and Red Sox, both 88-67, in the American League wild-card race.
The A’s enter play Sunday four game out of the wild card but still have dim hopes.
Melvin noted his guys can only worry about one thing — themselves.
“There’s an element of desperation,” he observed. “You have to win. You don’t think any farther out than today’s game, but we know each and every game, we take the field and we have to win. That’s the feeling that’s permeating our dugout right now.”
Whether he’s backed at shortstop by Andrus or not, the A’s will ride the right arm of Paul Blackburn (1-3, 5.17) in an effort to complete their sweep.
The 27-year-old has struggled of late, having allowed 27 hits and 13 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings in four September starts.
He has faced the Astros just twice in his career, once as a starter, compiling a 0-1 record and 18.47 ERA.
Houston is expected to reinstate right-hander Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.22) from the injured list to start the contest.
Odorizzi had to be pulled from his most recent start on Sept. 13 in the second inning because of a sprained right foot. He had been pitching well before that, having given up just six runs in 20 2/3 innings in his previous four starts.
The 31-year-old has not faced the A’s this season, and has a 1-4 record and 4.03 ERA in eight career starts against them.
For the third day in a row, the Astros (91-64) will have an opportunity to formally eliminate the A’s from the AL West race. Houston leads Oakland by seven games with seven remaining.
The Astros have been limited to three runs on just five hits in the first two games of the series. They have as many home runs (two) as singles (two).
Houston manager Dusty Baker blamed an exhausting late-season schedule, one in which the Astros will have played 17 games in 17 days before getting one final day off Monday.
“We need to get through them badly,” he said of the Oakland series. “Everybody is running on fumes.”
–Field Level Media