A postseason appearance once seemingly guaranteed for the Oakland Athletics is looking increasingly precarious after they were swept by baseball’s worst team.
Oakland looks to Jon Lester to help it avoid yet another pitfall Friday night when it continues its final nine-game homestand with the first of three against the last-place Philadelphia Phillies.
The Athletics (83-69) fell 7-2 to the Rangers on Thursday, marking the first time they’d been swept at home since a May 5-7 series versus Seattle. Oakland fell a half-game behind Kansas City for the top wild-card spot less than six weeks after having a four-game cushion for baseball’s best record.
It’s just a game ahead of the Mariners for the second wild card.
"We’re still in the wild card. All that’s moot unless we start to play better. We’ll find ourselves in no position if we continue to lose," manager Bob Melvin said. "You’ve got to fight being beat down based on what has transpired here recently. … It’s tough sometimes to get over these things. They’re all accountable for what they do. We all are."
The Athletics have dropped eight of 10 at home and six of eight overall while totaling 16 runs.
Brandon Moss (4 for 15) and Sam Fuld (7 for 30) are the only players hitting above .219 with more than one at-bat during that eight-game stretch. Fuld has driven in all three of Oakland’s runs in its last two games, singling Wednesday and tripling Thursday.
Lester (15-10, 2.45 ERA) has remained one of the few bright spots for the A’s, going 5-3 with a 2.30 ERA since joining the club. He owns a 1.80 ERA in his last five outings, though he’s just 2-2 while receiving a total of four runs of support outside of an 11-2 victory over the White Sox on Sept. 9.
The left-hander struck out seven over six innings in a 4-0 win at Seattle on Sunday, though he matched a season high with four walks and threw 110 pitches.
"These games sometimes mean more than the games you go out there and kind of walk through the lineup," he said.
Lester is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four career matchups with the Phillies. Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd and Chase Utley – Philadelphia’s top three RBI producers – are a combined 3 for 28 with 13 strikeouts against him.
Philadelphia (70-83) has dropped four of five with that foursome going a combined 6 for 36.
Manager Ryne Sandberg said Jimmy Rollins (hamstring) has a shot to play this weekend for the first time since Sept. 8.
David Buchanan (6-7, 3.75) is looking for his first win since Aug. 6 despite posting a 2.70 ERA in seven outings since. He was in line for the victory Sunday against Miami after yielding one run in 6 1-3 innings, but Jonathan Papelbon surrendered four runs in the ninth inning and Philadelphia lost 5-4.
"It’s all a work in progress," Buchanan told MLB’s official website. "You continue to improve every outing. As long as I stay true to myself, that’s when I continue to progress in my game and get better at pitching in the big leagues."
These clubs haven’t met since 2011 when the Phillies took two of three at home.