The Oakland Athletics’ rocky road to a potential American League West title begins, coincidentally, at home on Friday night when they begin a stretch of 14 games in 11 days with a series opener against the San Diego Padres.
The A’s (22-12) were rolling along, 4 1/2 games up on the second-place Houston Astros, when the bottom fell out in the past week, first with consecutive losses in Houston and then when pitcher Daniel Mengden tested positive for the coronavirus.
Three postponements later, the A’s find themselves only two games ahead of the Astros (21-15) and facing the prospect of having to deal with three doubleheaders in the next two weeks while being one pitcher down.
If there’s a silver lining for the A’s, well, there actually are two.
First off, they have been cleared to return to the field, happy to hear that the illness did not spread to any other members of the team.
And secondly, their next eight games — including five against the Astros — will be at home.
The A’s pronounced themselves cleared to play by issuing a statement Tuesday that read: “Since the A’s announced that a member of the organization tested positive for COVID-19 on August 28, all subsequent tests for the remainder of the traveling party — including those taken on Wednesday — have been negative.”
Mengden, a Houston native, remained behind while the A’s flew back to Oakland. He had been 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA in four games, including one start, this season.
The three-game Oakland-San Diego series is scheduled to begin with A’s left-hander Jesus Luzardo dueling Padres righty Zach Davies.
Luzardo (2-1, 3.74 ERA) has never faced the Padres in his two-year career. He hasn’t pitched in 11 days since suffering his first loss of the season, 3-2 at Texas last Monday.
The A’s haven’t played since losing both ends of a doubleheader at Houston last Saturday.
Oakland and San Diego haven’t met since Independence Day 2018, when the A’s completed a four-game, season-series sweep.
The A’s have dominated the interleague California rivalry, winning seven of the last eight meetings and 23 of 33 overall, including 11 of 15 at home.
The Padres (23-16) will attempt to turn things around with a whole new cast of characters, including starter Mike Clevinger, reliever Trevor Rosenthal, catchers Jason Castro and Austin Nola, designated hitter Mitch Moreland and outfielder Greg Allen, all acquired via trade in the days leading up to the Aug. 31 deadline.
Clevinger was the losing pitcher, Nola his catcher and Moreland the DH when the Padres were beaten 2-0 by the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, ending a three-game winning streak.
“It’s the most exciting team in baseball right now,” Clevinger gushed of the new-look Padres shortly after joining the club. “It’s kind of the place to be right now.”
Davies (5-2, 2.61) has gotten a decision in all seven of his starts this season, winning the last three with 14-, 13- and 10-run backings of offensive support.
He pitched brilliantly in his only previous outing against Oakland, allowing two runs on two hits in seven innings in a 5-4 Milwaukee Brewers win in 2016.
–Field Level Media