Athletics Series Preview July 21-23

The Mets (43-50) welcome the Oakland Athletics (43-52) to Flushing for the first time in over three years, at a time where trade winds are blowing strongly around both clubs.

Only 6.5 games off the pace in a weak American League Wild Card field, Oakland has already parted ways with key relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle over the past week and is reportedly in talks to move other impact players including ace right-hander Sonny Gray before the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline.

New York is also expected to be active on the seller’s market over the next ten days, with their hopes of a miraculous playoff run all but extinguished at this point.

Terry Collins’ club finished strong against St. Louis this week, splitting a four-game series by winning the last two – including a wild ninth-inning victory on Thursday afternoon.

The A’s lost two of three to Tampa Bay, but have won four of six after sweeping Cleveland last weekend.

When and Where

Game 1: Friday @ 7:10 p.m. EST (TV: SNY; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)

Game 2: Saturday @ 7:10 p.m. EST (TV: WPIX; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)

Game 3: Sunday @ 1:10 p.m. EST (TV: WPIX; RADIO: 710 WOR, ESPN Deportes)

Baseball Weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a low of 76F; Winds from 10-15 mph

Saturday: Thunderstorms likely with a low of 73F; Winds from 10-15 mph; Chance of rain 80%

Sunday: Widespread thunderstorms with a high of 78F; Winds from 10-15 mph; Chance of rain 80%

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Paul Blackburn (1-0, 1.83 ERA, 5.70 DRA, .228 TAv, 0.0 WARP) vs. LHP Steven Matz (2-3, 4.58 ERA, 5.63 DRA, .273 TAv, 0.0 WARP)

A former first-round pick of the Cubs, the 23-year-old Blackburn has impressed in three starts since making his big league debut on July 1, lasting at least six innings in each.

Matz has lost two straight, including a dismal outing on Sunday where he only retired three batters and was charged with seven runs. The Long Island native has allowed 12 runs on 16 hits in 5.1 innings, including 3 homers.

Saturday: LHP Sean Manaea (8-5, 3.68 ERA, 3.34 DRA, .233 TAv, 2.5 WARP) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (3-7, 4.98 ERA, 6.27 DRA, .285 TAv, -0.6 WARP)

Manaea has built upon the success of last year’s rookie campaign, especially of late. The burly southpaw has pitched a minimum of seven frames in all three July starts, striking out 17 in 21.1 innings with a 2.95 ERA.

Wheeler has not won since May 20, a span of eight starts where he is 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA. Opponents are hitting .338 over that stretch.

Sunday: RHP Daniel Gossett (1-5, 5.79 ERA, 7.47 DRA, .297 TAv, -0.8 WARP) vs. RHP Rafael Montero (1-6, 5.40 ERA, 5.50 DRA, .302 TAv, -0.1 WARP)

Gossett has lost three straight decisions, despite an impressive performance on Monday against the Rays where the rookie hurled seven innings of three-run ball.

Montero pitched fairly well in a loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday but was let down by the Mets’ shoddy defense, charged with four runs (two earned) in six innings.

Who’s Hot?

Mets SS Jose Reyes (1.022 OPS in 28 PA after the All-Star break)

Mets OF Michael Conforto (5-for-11 since Tuesday)

Mets 1B Lucas Duda (.308 AVG and 1.126 OPS since the break, including 3 HR)

A’s OF Rajai Davis (7-for-14 with 4 runs scored in the second half)

A’s LF Khris Davis (3 home runs in his last 5 games)

Who’s Not?

Mets LF Yoenis Cespedes (One extra-base hit in his last 20 at-bats)

Mets catchers (2-for-13 in the Cardinals series)

A’s SS Marcus Semien (.095 AVG (2-for-21) over the past week)

When We Last Met

The teams split a two-game set on June 24-25, 2014 at Citi Field, with the Mets taking the opener 10-1 behind eight strong innings by Bartolo Colon and four home runs — including two off the bat of center fielder Chris Young.

Yoenis Cespedes was 3-for-8 with 4 RBIs in the series for Oakland.

It’s Literally a 10-Day DL

Athletics: Several players began rehab assignments with Triple-A Nashville this week, but none are expected to return during this series. They are RHP Jharel Cotton (blister on right thumb), RHP Kendall Graveman (right shoulder strain), 2B Chad Pinder (left hamstring strain) and RHP Chris Bassitt (Tommy John surgery).

Mets: 2B Neil Walker (partial tear of left hamstring) is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday night, and could be activated for Monday’s series opener in San Diego. Top prospect Amed Rosario (bruised right index finger) has missed Las Vegas’ last three games.

Notable Quotables

“We need one. We’ve had a lot of them slip away lately and we needed a win like this today.” – Collins following Thursday afternoon’s walkoff win over St. Louis

“I know he said what he said in San Francisco but one thing we tried to get him to understand is that right now, there’s probably a larger market for third baseman as there is for second baseman at this particular point so it would behoove him to have that option. Even though he hasn’t played over there, this guy’s hands are good enough that he can play anywhere.” – Collins on the possibility of Asdrubal Cabrera playing third base when Walker returns

“It was nice. I’ve had a lot of times coming off the mound getting some nice ovations, some cheers here, and it took me back to 2013 a lot in those two playoff games. It was really nice, whether it is or whether it’s not is not up to me but it brought back a lot of memories so that was really nice.” – Gray on the crowd’s reaction as he left the game on Wednesday, possibly his last home start in an A’s uniform

“I try not to think too much about that because when you have a group of guys that you’re dealing with that’s basically what your focus is, and I’ve had him for a while so I just kind of go with the flow as far as that goes.” – Manager Bob Melvin on the Oakland fans recognizing the potential significance of the moment

Photo credit: Joe Nicholson – USA Today Sports

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