Trevor Cahill injury is perfect metaphor to A's inexplicable season

Trevor Cahill injury is perfect metaphor to A's inexplicable season

The Oakland Athletics, who have found that one of the secrets of success in the new baseball is to shed starting pitchers like snakes shed skin, are apparently down to Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson and Bull Penning.
Trevor Cahill is the latest starter to replace old pains with new ones, and now has a back muscle issue according to the San Francisco Chronicle, that will cost him at least his start Saturday in Tampa.
In other words, the saga of The Team From What The Hell continues.
The A’s have been dancing furiously with a bullpen army and the occasional traditional starter, and amazingly have strengthened their hold on the second wild card spot. And now that they have eight games on the Rays and 8 ½ games on Seattle, it seems oddly fitting that Cahill would the next one to disappear. He has been a very useful performer at home but problematic on the road, and barring a reversal in the American League pecking order, the A’s first three games of the postseason (assuming there will be more than one) will be away from the friendly, if skunky, confines of the Coliseum.
It means that unless Brett Anderson, expected to start Thursday against the Orioles, can remain a solid rotation piece, Bob Melvin will probably have to find a second Liam Hendriks, or more important, a second follow to Hendriks. Daniel Mengden has served that role relatively well, but as the rosters shrink back to 25 players, an 18-man bullpen won’t do. Indeed, the A’s will be stretching it much past nine.
But this is who they have become this year, and Cahill is as much a metaphor for this inexplicably pleasant season as anyone. The A’s have managed to get better as their rotation gets smaller, and if that is really the secret to success, they could very well be the October spoiler, as in this fictional exchange: “Bob, who’s starting for you tomorrow in Game 6?”
“I think we’ll start with Ramon Laureano and then just whoever answers the phone after that.” 

Stephen Piscotty proving he's A's X-factor, despite power-bat surroundings

Stephen Piscotty proving he's A's X-factor, despite power-bat surroundings

While sluggers like Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson garner most of the attention in the A's lineup, manager Bob Melvin has often said that Stephen Piscotty is truly the X-factor.

After a somewhat pedestrian start to the season, Piscotty is beginning to heat up, and that is great news for the A's. The 28-year-old went 2-for-4 with three RBI on Sunday in Detroit, including the go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning to give Oakland a 5-3 lead in a game suspended by rain.

Piscotty has now reached base safely in 15 consecutive games and has gone 8-for-18 with three doubles and four walks in his last five contests.

"I feel like, while I'm not at my best, I've still been able to operate and have some good at-bats," Piscotty told reporters Sunday. "Still a little bit of work to go, but I'm seeing the ball well. I was able to get a couple of walks the other day. That's big for me. That's a good sign that I'm seeing the ball well."

When Piscotty is at his best, he adds much-needed length to the Oakland lineup. He can be a serious power threat in the fifth or sixth spot in the order, as he showed last year, belting a career-high 27 home runs, 41 doubles, and 88 RBI.

For the season, Piscotty is now slashing .263/.337/.409 with five homers and 22 RBI. Last year, he got off to an even slower start than he did this season, hitting just .227/.286/.349 through the month of May.

Piscotty caught fire midway through the season and that's when the A's really took off last year. He amassed 24 home runs from June through September, ranking near the top of the league. If Piscotty can pick up the power in a similar way this year, the A's will take their production to another level.

[RELATED: A's starting pitching beginning to turn around]

To really understand Piscotty's value in the lineup, just look his offensive numbers in wins versus losses. In A's victories this season, Piscotty is slashing .337/.383/.523. That line falls to .188/.291/.292 in Oakland's defeats.

The A's hope Piscotty's recent success marks the start of an extended hot streak into the All-Star break and beyond. His bat makes Oakland's lineup nearly impossible for pitchers to navigate, with dangerous hitters lurking from top to bottom.

A's vs. Tigers lineups: Khris Davis returns in series finale at Comerica

A's vs. Tigers lineups: Khris Davis returns in series finale at Comerica

Entering the series against the Detroit Tigers, the A's were looking for something to jump-start them and they found a team they've owned of late.

After Saturday's 4-1 win at Comerica Park, Oakland now has won 15 straight games against the Tigers and they'll go for the sweep Sunday behind right-hander Mike Fiers. 

Bob Melvin gets an important member of his lineup back for the afternoon series finale, too. Khris Davis, who missed Saturday's game to rest a hip ailment, is back in Sunday's lineup. He will bat cleanup and be the designated hitter.

Here are the lineups for Sunday's game between the A's and Tigers. Coverage starts at 9:30 a.m. on NBC Sports California and streaming live on the My Teams app

Oakland Athletics (22-25)
Marcus Semien, SS
Matt Chapman, 3B
Chad Pinder, LF
Khris Davis, DH
Stephen Piscotty, RF
Matt Olson, 1B
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Ramon Laureano, CF
Josh Phegley, C

Mike Fiers, RHP (3-3, 5.12 ERA)

[RELATED: Is Phegley worthy of All-Star nod?]

Detroit Tigers (18-26)
Niko Goodrum, 1B
Dawel Lugo, 3B
Nicholas Castellanos, RF
Miguel Cabrera, DH
Ronny Rodriguez, SS
Christin Stewart, LF
Josh Harrison, 2B
Grayson Greiner, C
JaCoby Jones, CF

Gregory Soto, LHP (0-2, 13.50 ERA)