The American League West lead is at stake when the second-place Houston Astros look to make up ground on the Oakland Athletics in a four-day, five-game series that kicks off Monday night in California.
The A’s (23-14) will begin the final head-to-head between the division front-runners with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Astros (21-19), who have won the last three AL West titles, with Oakland finishing second in each of the last two seasons.
Both teams are coming off losses Sunday, one that was especially painful for the A’s, who had to take standout third baseman Matt Chapman out of their 5-3 home loss to the San Diego Padres because of a strained right hip.
The injury occurred in the field when Chapman ranged to his left and strained to get off an off-balanced throw to first base.
An MRI was scheduled for Monday.
A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked afterward if the timing of the injury was particularly bad on the eve of the showdown series.
“That’s not great timing period to have a player like that (get hurt),” he assured. “To lose a guy like Chappy would hurt if it’s for an extended period.”
The A’s hope to get All-Star shortstop Marcus Semien back at some point in the series. He has not played since Aug. 29, when he began experiencing pain in his left side in a game at Houston.
The A’s lost both ends of a doubleheader in Houston that day during a series that began with the teams refusing to play Friday night to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, before having to postpone Sunday’s finale after A’s pitcher Daniel Mengden tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Astros thus will be considered the home team in two of the five games in Oakland. The team playing at home has won all five previous meetings.
The Astros also lost more than just a game Sunday in a 9-5 road defeat to the Los Angeles Angels. Josh Reddick suffered an elbow injury when running into the outfield fence and had to leave the game.
He joined Jose Altuve (sprained right knee) and Alex Bregman (strained right hamstring) on the sidelines as the Angels completed a four-game sweep.
Reddick and Bregman could return at some point in the Oakland series. Altuve is on the injured list.
Astros manager Dusty Baker was not optimistic about seeing Bregman back in the lineup in Oakland.
“I hope so,” he said before Sunday’s game. “I don’t expect him. I hope so.”
The scheduled pitching matchup in the series opener pits Astros rookie right-hander Cristian Javier (4-1, 3.35 ERA) against A’s righty Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06 ERA).
Javier served up home runs to Chapman, Matt Olson and Robbie Grossman in a 7-2 loss in Oakland on the Astros’ first visit in August. He took the loss, allowing five runs on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts in his only meeting with the A’s.
Montas has made two starts this season against the Astros, with mixed results. He blanked them over seven innings in a 3-1 win in Oakland on Aug. 8, but gave up five runs, six hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings in the second game of the twin bill on Aug. 29.
In eight career appearances, including six starts, against the Astros, Montas is 3-3 with a 4.63 ERA.
–Field Level Media