It's the start of a potentially season-defining 10-game homestand for Oakland on Friday night as the A's start a three-game set against Kansas City in a rematch of the 2014 AL Wild Card game. The A's are -128 favorites on BetOnline with a total of 7.
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I would be remiss if I didn't mention that wild card game. The Royals hosted it, their first playoff game in 29 years, and looked dead in the water trailing 7-3 entering the bottom of the eighth inning with Oakland ace Jon Lester (acquired at the trade deadline from Boston) looking in control. But the Royals scored three in the eighth and added one in the ninth to send it to extras. Oakland took an 8-7 lead in the top of the 12th, only for K.C. to score two in the bottom for a 9-8 win -- yet another one-and-done for the A's in the playoffs.
This year's A's team doesn't resemble that year's club much and had been considered a likely seller ahead of this year's trade deadline, but the team is playing much better since June 14, taking series from San Diego, the L.A. Angels and Texas. So maybe aggressive GM Billy Beane will wait until after this homestand to decide whether to start selling off pieces like infielder Ben Zobrist or starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, both of whom would bring back nice value in prospects. The Rockies visit Oakland for three games following this series and then the Mariners are in for four games.
While I don't see the A's returning to the playoffs, the Royals look like they will win the American League Central and are -250 MLB odds favorites at sportsbooks to do so. I don't see Minnesota as a legitimate threat and Detroit is starting to show its age. Maybe if the Tigers make a big move for pitching they can still have a say in winning the division.
Seven Royals continue to lead their positions in AL All-Star voting in the most recent update: catcher Salvador Perez, second baseman Omar Infante (he would be one of the least-deserving All-Stars ever), shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas, designated hitter Kendrys Morales, and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. That's ridiculous.
Speaking of Cain, the center fielder might not be available Friday. He sat out Monday's and Wednesday's games with a slight hamstring issue. Maybe Thursday's off day will be enough for Cain to get back in there. He's hitting .290 with six homers, 32 RBIs and 14 steals.
Oakland lost two of three in Kansas City from April 17-19, a series that saw the benches empty in every game. Eric Hosmer was 6-for-10 with two runs and an RBI in that series for the Royals. Infante was 4-for-8 with two doubles and two RBIs. Stephen Vogt was 5-for-8 with two doubles and two homers for Oakland. Josh Reddick hit .364 with a homer and three RBIs.
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Edinson Volquez is on the mound for Kansas City, and he didn't pitch in that first series vs. Oakland. Volquez (7-4, 3.33 ERA) was essentially signed as a free agent to replace the departed James Shields and Volquez has pretty much done the job. The Royals have won three straight and eight of his past nine outings. Volquez does come off one of his worst outings of the year, allowing four earned runs (ties season high) and eight hits (season high) over 5.1 innings against Boston. He also didn't strike anyone out for the first time all year. He remains three shy of No. 1,000 for his career. Not many A's have ever faced Volquez. Ike Davis is 2-for-9 with an RBI and three strikeouts. Brett Lawrie is 1-for-3 and Zobrist 0-for-5 with four walks. Kansas City is 4-0 at sportsbooks in his past four starts vs. teams with a losing record.
Oakland goes with Jesse Hahn (5-5, 3.40 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). The right-hander did face the Royals in that early series and got the victory in a 5-0 win. He went 5.1 innings and allowed three hits. The A's have won his past four overall. He went 7.2 innings last time out, allowing a run and four hits against the Angels. Hahn hasn't allowed a homer in four starts this month and only three all season. Infante is 1-for-2 with a double off him. Gordon and Morales each have a single in two at-bats off Hahn. The A's are 4-1 at sportsbooks in Hahn's past five vs. teams with a winning record.
MLB Free Picks: The A's look better, but they had to play Thursday and then travel home, while the Royals were off. That can matter. Take Kansas City +120 and 'under' 7 at The Greek. The 'under' has hit in five of the past six meetings in Oakland.