OAKLAND -- With the Mets starting a right-hander today in Zack Wheeler, an off-day tomorrow for the A’s and at least one regular hurting, the A’s lineup has a different look for today’s series finale against New York.
There’s no Josh Donaldson, whom manager Bob Melvin said is getting a day off after playing every game of the recent road trip. "He’s a little tired right now," Melvin said. "So with a day game and the off-day tomorrow, hopefully we can combat that."
Derek Norris is also off, which Melvin said was planned. But Norris is dealing with back tightness as well that hampers him while running, so ideally the consecutive days off will help get Norris ready for this weekend’s showdown with the Los Angeles Angels.
Melvin said both Donaldson and Norris are likely available off the bench today.
The full A’s lineup against Wheeler, all left-handed (including three switch-hitters):
And the Mets’ lineup against Jeff Samardzija:
CF Den Dekker
LF Young, Jr.
* In the seventh inning of the A’s win on Tuesday night, Eric O’Flaherty was brought in with two outs and struck out Curtis Granderson with a runner on base to preserve a two-run lead. It was an example of what Melvin said this morning is his willingness to start using O’Flaherty in higher-leverage situations as the left-hander distances himself more and more from his return from Tommy John surgery.
O’Flaherty still hasn’t been able to pitch on back-to-back days, but Melvin said he thinks "we’re pretty close" to that. Melvin said he’s also comfortable using O’Flaherty against both left- and right-handed hitters, as O’Flaherty has shown he can get both out.
"I think each time he goes out in a situation like he did last night and has success it makes him feel that much more removed from the surgery," Melvin said. "He’s just more like an everyday player, and he’s used to pitching late in games, so it’s good to see."
* While it behooves the A’s not to look past today’s game against the Mets, much of the anticipation -- and some questions posed to Melvin before today’s game -- were about this weekend’s series against the Angels, which features the teams with the majors’ two best records.
Melvin pointed out the A’s and Angels still play each other 10 times down the stretch, the upcoming series included, so this weekend won’t decide anything. But he acknowledged it’s probably going to be a playoff-type atmosphere at the Coliseum and the A’s conceded as much by lining up their top three starters to pitch in the series.
"They’re one of the best teams in baseball, and we know we’re going to have some, to an extent, emotional games against them," Melvin said of the Angels, whom the A’s trail by a half-game at the start of play today. "The closer you get to the finish line, when you play a team that you’re close to in the standings and you’re going to fight for there’s going to be that much more importance on each one of these games."
* Samardzija will try to continue his success at the Coliseum, where he’s 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA and .209 opponents’ average in five starts since joining the A’s. He hasn’t fared all that well over his career against the Mets, though. In eight career appearances, only two of them starts, he’s 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings.