The Oakland Athletics will head to Texas Tuesday for a quick two-game set with the Rangers in an American League West showdown. The A’s are managing to improbably keep their heads above water this year and are on the right side of .500 at 31-29 entering this series. For Texas, the Rangers find themselves buried in last place in the division and are quickly changing their focus from winning this year, to building for the future, as trade rumors swirl around some of their best players.
Starting tonight for the Rangers is Matt Moore (1-5 7.85 ERA), and for the Athletics, it is Sean Manaea (5-6 3.60 ERA). The A’s are -127 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at ten and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 PM PST from Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
The AL West might be the best division in all of baseball. The AL East is very top heavy with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees winning a bunch of games, but the rest of the division is garbage. The AL West has four teams above .500, and both the Mariners and the Astros are pacing right alongside the Yankees and Red Sox as the best teams in the American League. So, when you look at what division is best, top to bottom, the AL West seems to be the clear choice.
You have to wonder how much better this A’s team record would be if they didn’t have to play the wrecking crew that is the AL West? If you dropped the Athletics into the AL Central, they would be in a first-place tie right now with the Cleveland Indians. I am not trying to convince you that the A’s are an elite team or even a playoff caliber team, but I think they are likely much better than they are being perceived this year. A’s GM Billy Beane has done his standard job of taking a bunch of nobody players that no one else wants and has built a contending squad yet again.
Starting tonight for the Athletics is Sean Manaea. Manaea has been all over the place this season. He was likely the best pitcher in the entire major leagues through April. At the end of April, Manaea 4-2 with a 1.03 ERA. That stretch included a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on April 21st. In the start following that one, he followed up the no-no with a seven-inning shutout of the Houston Astros. Since then, it has been pretty much downhill for Manaea.
In the month of May, Manaea has gone 1-4 with a 7.18 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting .295 off of Manaea in May. It hasn’t been pretty for the young lefty. In his one start against Texas this year, Manaea was dominant. He pitched eight innings of one-run ball and allowed just three hits in an Oakland victory. So, which Manaea will we see tonight against this Rangers team that is twenty-ninth in the big leagues in batting average?
The Rangers will start the embattled Matt Moore tonight in game one. While Sean Manaea started hot and has cooled down, Moore has been consistently terrible all year long. Moore’s 7.85 ERA is amongst the highest of any qualified starters in the American League. He has one start against Oakland this year, and he pitched just five innings and gave up three runs, and the Rangers got blown out.
After that no-hitter against Boston, the price on Manaea went through the roof. The former unknown starter was now being priced like a Cy Young candidate in the betting markets. He didn’t handle the pressure of the media hype all that well and has struggled since. But I have been backing Manaea now for a couple of years because this guy has really good stuff. He doesn’t always bring it, and where he was being valued earlier this season did not match his abilities, but this guy is still really young and is maturing a little bit every start.
In this spot against a free-swinging Texas team that loves to strikeout, it should be a good spot to get back on track for Manaea. As you can see, Manaea is back to being priced reasonably as he is just a small favorite against a bad, last place, Rangers team. That means I can go back to backing him. Even if he doesn’t have his best stuff tonight, Matt Moore could go crazy and get rocked and lose the game all by himself.
So, its like we have a little insurance blanket in this one. I think Manaea will pitch well and get things going again against this low batting average Texas team, but if he doesn’t, I still like the A’s if it turns into a shootout. This Oakland team has some serious pop as they are fifth in the majors in home runs and I just don’t see any way that Moore gets out of this one unscathed.
I took a quick peek at the run line just to see what it was offering us, but at just +120 it is only offering us a forty-seven-cent premium. That just isn’t enough for me to want to lay that run and a half, even if this could end up being an Oakland blowout. So, I will stick with the reasonably priced run line and take the Athletics in game one at -127!