OAKLAND, Calif. — Two teams overshadowed by the defending champions and baseball’s most popular newcomer, respectively, in their opening series get a shot at the spotlight for themselves when the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics open a four-game series on Monday night.
Rangers right-hander Bartolo Colon will face one of his former teams and their fifth starter, Andrew Triggs, in the series opener.
The Rangers lost three of four to the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros and the A’s also dropped three of four to Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels in a series that concluded in defeat Sunday.
Texas struggled offensively against the Astros’ powerful pitching staff, scoring a total of 11 runs in the four games. If there was a positive, 10 of their 24 hits went for extra bases, including home runs by Nomar Mazara, Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo and Drew Robinson.
“The season just started and we faced four really good pitchers,” explained Andrus, who had seven hits, including two doubles and a homer, in the series. “We’ll talk about it and try to have a better plan and better idea out there, but it’s still too early to panic out there.”
The Rangers didn’t pitch particularly well, either, as evidenced by the fact that they were outscored a whopping 22-11 in the four games.
Colon will take a shot at turning things around. He’s surely had more than his fair share of success in Oakland, where he went 13-9 in two seasons with the A’s.
The 44-year-old made the 2013 All-Star team during an 18-6 overall season for the A’s.
Colon has done well against Oakland as well, going 9-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 21 head-to-heads, including 20 starts.
Colon will be facing an A’s lineup that had a similar series against the Angels as the Rangers endured against the Astros. In other words, the pitching fell apart in consecutive blowouts after the teams split the first two games.
It’ll be up to Triggs to reverse that trend from the bottom of the rotation in his first start since June, when he suffered a hip injury that eventually led to labrum surgery.
Triggs has been brilliant in his young career against the Rangers, having allowed just one earned run and five hits in 12 2/3 innings (0.71 ERA) in three games, including two starts.
A’s manager Bob Melvin made an early season lineup change in Sunday’s matchup with Ohtani, moving Matt Joyce out of the leadoff spot and hitting him fifth. He had two of the A’s five hits, including a second-inning single that helped set the stage for Matt Chapman‘s three-run homer.
But the A’s did little other damage against Ohtani, who retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced en route to a win in his major league pitching debut.
Matt Olson moved into the No. 3 spot and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
“Oley (Olson) can hit anywhere,” Melvin said of his lineup flexibility, of which he said he plans to take full advantage this season. “He’s on base an awful lot. He’ll be between 3-4-5, whatever we think is the proper thing to do on a particular day.”