Right-hander Chris Bassitt, a key member of their staff the last time the Athletics were in a playoff race, hopes to improve upon his current team's chances of making the postseason this year when he and the Toronto Blue Jays face his former club at his old stomping grounds in Oakland on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays (76-62) gained a game on the Texas Rangers (76-61) with a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the A's in the opener of their three-game series Monday. Toronto will take the field Tuesday a half-game behind the Rangers in the race for the final American League wild-card spot.
Monday's win was the Blue Jays' third in four outings on a six-game Western swing, but it didn't come as easy as they probably would have hoped against the A's (42-96), who have the fewest wins in the majors.
Riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak, Oakland rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the game in the seventh inning before stranding the potential game-winning run at third in the ninth after pinch runner Esteury Ruiz had stolen two bases.
Run-scoring doubles by Santiago Espinal and Spencer Horwitz sandwiched around an RBI single by Cavan Biggio in the 10th then produced just enough of a margin as the A's battled back again, this time on Lawrence Butler's second home run of the day, a two-run shot that got Oakland within 6-5.
Horwitz, along with Ernie Clement and Davis Schneider, were recently identified by veteran pitcher Kevin Gausman as potential difference-makers down the stretch as the Blue Jays deal with injuries to Matt Chapman, Bo Bichette and Brandon Belt.
"They've been a good shot of energy," Gausman noted. "They come in and they're playing with their hair on fire. They're excited for every opportunity they're getting, and they're getting a lot of them right now. It's been so fun to watch these guys."
Despite the loss, A's manager Mark Kotsay said he was proud of his club's effort, which came on the heels of a come-from-behind, 10-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday that capped a three-game sweep.
"We've been playing really good baseball," Kotsay gushed. "The fight, the drive, the determination to get back in that game in the 10th, when we had a chance to win it in the ninth. Overall, it was a good game."
For the second day in a row, the A's enter the day with left-hander Ken Waldichuk (2-7, 5.92 ERA) as their scheduled starter. He was pushed back a day when Luis Medina was activated off the injured list in time for Monday's contest.
If he does indeed pitch this time, Waldichuk will get an opportunity to avenge a 12-1 drubbing in Toronto in June in which he was bombed for six runs in 2 1/3 innings of relief. It was his only career outing against the Blue Jays.
He'll be up against Bassitt (13-7, 3.81), who was an All-Star with the A's in 2021 before getting traded to the New York Mets in March of 2022.
The 34-year-old went 30-24 in 100 games, including 88 starts, over six seasons for Oakland. He is 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA in three career starts against the A's, including going eight innings for the Mets in a 9-2 win in his first Oakland homecoming last September.
He gave up four runs in five innings in a 5-4 loss to Oakland on June 23. He didn't receive a decision while striking out four and walking two.
—Field Level Media