Series Preview: Oakland Athletics (64-82) at Philadelphia Phillies (57-89), Sept. 15-17

It was just a little more than a month ago where we – or maybe just me? – were counting down the days until this lifeless season was over. Then Rhys Hoskins happened. And Nick Williams continued to be a hitting machine. And the bullpen seems to have figured itself out. And J.P. Crawford finally made his debut. And Odubel Herrera is doing Odubel Herrera things. And did I mention Rhys Hoskins?

Bottom line – this team is finally fun to watch again and everything we have been waiting for is finally starting to happen. Too bad there’s only 15 games left, starting with the Oakland Athletics this weekend.

What to expect

Philly’s former baseball team is back in town for the first time since 2011 and the final Interleague series of the season. The A’s haven’t fared well this season but just last weekend they swept the Houston Astros in a four-game series. They rank 25th in the league in batting average but are sixth in homeruns with 210. Good news is Khris Davis who leads the team with 39 homers just flew back home on Thursday for the birth of his first child so he won’t be back until at least Saturday – perfect timing!

Alien Rhys Hoskins continues to hit bombs night after night. More importantly, especially for a team that has struggled with plate discpline in the past, Hoskins has almost as many walks (26) as he does strikeouts (27). If the Marlins’ pitchers can’t figure how to get him out after seeing him 10 times, the A’s are going to have a tough time on their hands especially with how well the rest of the lineup is producing. In the series finale against Miami, every position player had a hit by the second inning. Since the All-Star break, the Phils are hitting .269/.334/.445 with a .779 OPS.

Meanwhile, the A’s have a hot rookie of their own. Matt Olson has 14 homers and 27 RBIs since August 8, after hitting just .196 (51 at-bats) through the first three months of the season.

Probable starters

Friday, 7:05 p.m., Daniel Mengden (0-1, 7.07 ERA) vs. Mark Leiter (3-4, 4.84 ERA)

Mengden’s major league career hasn’t been nearly as cool as his handlebar mustache – seriously, Google it. He spent most of the season in Triple A after going 2-9 with a 6.50 ERA in 14 starts last season. He was called up to start the second game of last week’s double-header against the Astros, where he gave up only three runs over six innings.

After pitching pretty well all season as both a starter and in relief, Leiter has been shaky as of late. He’s given up 13 runs over 9 1/3 innings in his last two starts, which saw his ERA jump from 3.88 to 4.84. However, he seemed to regain his control in his last outing against the Nationals where he struck out eight over six innings.

Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.48 ERA) vs. Ben Lively (3-6, 3.86 ERA)

Since returning from the DL on August 3, Gravemen has pitched at least five innings in all but one of his eight starts. He relies heavily on his sinker so it’ll be interesting to see how the Phils’ young hitters adjust.

Lively, aside from Nola, has been one of the few bright spots in the Phils’ rotation this season. He’s only given up more than three runs twice and has a 2.57 ERA in his last three starts.

Sunday, 1:35 p.m., Sean Manaea (10-10, 4.65 ERA) vs. Henderson Alvarez (0-0, -.– ERA)

Manaea’s first three months were pretty consistent for the second-year pitcher. He finished the first half with a 3.76 ERA and only pitched less than five innings once in 16 starts. He has since unraveled. In 11 games, Manaea has a 6.20 ERA and lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his last start against Boston, surrendering seven runs on 11 hits.

Alvarez is making his first major league appearance since May 2015 when he last pitched for the Marlins before undergoing shoulder surgery. He attempted a comeback last season with the A’s but only pitched in 11 minor league games. After his second shoulder surgery last September, Alvarez joined the Independent League this season where he had a 3.94 ERA in seven games. The Phillies picked him up and put him in Lehigh Valley where he went 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three games. The former All-Star hopes to get back to where he left off…more than two years ago.

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