The Oakland Athletics will take the field as division champs for the first time in seven years when they visit the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series starting Tuesday.
The A’s wrapped up the American League West title on their off day Monday as the Houston Astros fell 6-1 to the Seattle Mariners.
Oakland (33-20) is headed to the playoffs for the third year in a row, but it hadn’t won the AL West since 2013.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, started their string of division championships in 2013 and are closing in on their eighth consecutive to extend the franchise’s longest run in that category. Los Angeles (38-16) holds a four-game lead on the San Diego Padres (34-20) with six games to go.
Both teams entertained the possibility of clinching on Sunday, but the A’s fell 14-2 to the San Francisco Giants while the Dodgers dropped a 6-3 decision to the Colorado Rockies that ended their five-game winning streak. A Padres victory Sunday thwarted the Dodgers’ clinching plans anyway.
“We need to continue to put the pressure on teams and play like we’re going to play in the playoffs,” Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts said. “If we ride this wave on through the playoffs, we should be just fine. You can’t just turn it on in the playoffs. We’re doing a good job, and we’ve got to continue to do it.”
Like the Dodgers, the A’s are looking for more of the same even though they were blown out Sunday and failed to clinch the division.
“I don’t think anything changes,” A’s outfielder Mark Canha said. “We’re not putting pressure on ourselves. We’re just kind of approaching them all the same way.”
The Dodgers will get some reinforcements this week. Outfielder Joc Pederson was reinstated from the family medical emergency list Monday, with utility man Zach McKinstry sent back to the team’s alternate training site. Right-hander Walker Buehler (blister) is expected to make his return from the injured list to start Thursday’s game, giving him one more turn in the rotation before the postseason.
The Dodgers will send right-hander Dustin May (1-1, 2.68 ERA) to the mound at some point Tuesday in his first-ever appearance against the A’s. A starter all season, May was called out of the bullpen in his most recent appearance, Wednesday at San Diego, going a strong 5 1/3 innings in a game in which right-hander Brusdar Graterol was used as an opener.
The A’s will have right-hander Frankie Montas (3-4, 5.86 ERA) on the mound for his first appearance in nine days. He was on the paternity list and last saw action on Sept. 13, when he gave up four runs and two home runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 6-3 road loss to the Texas Rangers.
Over his past seven outings, Montas has a 6.62 ERA and has allowed 38 hits with 15 walks in 34 innings. He has never faced the Dodgers.
A’s utility man Chad Pinder (hamstring) could come off the IL on Wednesday.
The series will match up two of the better bullpens in baseball. Oakland has a best-in-the-majors 2.08 ERA from its relievers, while Los Angeles is at 2.86, second on the list. No other bullpen in baseball is below 3.35.
–Field Level Media