After a four game win streak, the Oakland Athletics have finally worked their way back to the top and are tied for first with the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Tonight’s game is the second in this Athletics-Rangers series and will determine who will take sole possession of the AL West lead. Lets see how these two teams will match up tonight.
The Oakland Athletics will have their ace, Bartolo Colon, on the mound. This is only his second start after a small spell on the disabled list. In his last game, Colon lasted a mere five innings, allowing one run on seven hits. This was not great, but it was much better than the 10 runs over 6 ⅔ innings he pitched in the two starts before he went out on August 13th with a groin injury. Colon has a 19-7 lifetime record against the Rangers, so maybe he will earn his first win since being back.
Even though Colon did not last long against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, he was able to keep the run count low. If Colon can only last five innings again in tonight’s game, the Athletics’ bullpen needs to make sure that their relievers are consistent and do not allow too many runs or blow a lead. This is especially important when it comes to Grant Balfour, who blew the save against the Detroit Tigers in Thursday night’s game, and allowed a hit and a walk before racking up his 36th save of the season on Monday. Balfour has told the media a few times since Thursday that he has just not been feeling himself lately, so the Athletics may need to find a fill-in closer for this last month of the season.
The Rangers have Martin Perez on the mound. Perez has not faced this club since last year when he had a 1-2 record and a 9.90 ERA against the Athletics. However, Perez is on a five-start win streak, which is a club rookie record, and is striving for his sixth. With a current 3.58 ERA and an 8-3 record, he is not quite as good as Colon, but has the power to shut down the Athletics’ heavy hitters. This 22-year-old rookie has a nasty fastball that consistently hits the strike zone and he has a way of changing up the speed of his pitches to confuse the opposing batter.
Perez will have to look out for Athletics’ center fielder, Coco Crisp, who has been on fire lately. Even though he left yesterday’s game with a shin injury in the late innings, he hit a two-run home run in the fifth and it has been reported that he will start in tonight’s game. In the last ten games, Crisp has yielded five home runs – three of which were in three consecutive games – eight RBI, and a .300 AVG. Crisp has a .333 average in six at-bats against Perez.
But the Rangers have Adrian Beltre, who has a .302 lifetime batting average against Colon. This includes seven doubles and five home runs. This season, he is third is the AL for batting average at .327 and sixth in the AL for home runs. Beltre has been equally, if not more successful than Crisp in his last ten games, which will make for quite a battle tonight at the O.co Coliseum.
Whoever wins tonight will give their club a one game lead in the AL West. With the Athletics current streak, they have shown that they have the late season spark to finish out the season strong. If the bullpen is able to keep the run count low, the Athletics will take the AL West lead back from the Rangers tonight.