One team looking ahead to next week duels an American League West rival already mapping out a plan for 2020 when the Oakland Athletics host the Texas Rangers on the middle day of a three-game series Saturday night.
The A's (93-61) looked like the playoff-contending team and the Rangers (74-80) like the also-rans when Oakland's Mike Fiers threw a dominant eight innings in an 8-0 win in the series opener Friday.
With just eight games remaining in the regular season, the A's find themselves two games up on Tampa Bay (91-63) and Cleveland (91-63) as the three chase two remaining spots in the AL playoffs.
Having recently added left-hander Sean Manaea (2-0, 0.50 ERA) to the starting rotation following a 13-month absence due to elbow surgery, the A's on Friday began pondering how best to use righty Frankie Montas (9-2, 2.70) when his 80-game drug suspension ends next Wednesday.
As it stands now, Manaea and Tanner Roark will pitch the final two games of the Texas series this weekend, followed by Brett Anderson to start a road series against the Los Angeles Angels next Tuesday.
Homer Bailey would be next in line, pending a decision on Montas, who is not eligible for the postseason should the A's make it.
"He's available for the last five days of the year," A's manager Bob Melvin explained to reporters Friday night about Montas. "We're still not sure how we're going to use him yet, but that'll be a nice piece to have here for the last five games. You saw what he meant to our team over the course of the regular season until the issue popped up."
The late-season addition of Manaea surely has benefited the playoff-contending club. He's coming off six shutout innings, allowing three hits, in a 6-1 win at Texas last Sunday.
The win improved his career record against the Rangers to 5-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 10 starts.
Manaea won't have to deal with Hunter Pence on Saturday, even though the veteran is with the Rangers on the road as he rehabs a strained lower back.
The former San Francisco Giants standout doesn't have a contract for next season, and hopes to end the season on a positive note by returning at some point next week.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels admitted to reporters Friday that he's not sure where the 36-year-old, who has been a pleasant surprise as an under-the-radar signing in the offseason, fits onto his club's young roster next season.
"He was extremely productive on the field, and he was (a) really valuable member of the clubhouse that you would love to have back," Daniels observed of Pence, who is hitting .297 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI in 83 games. "On the other hand, how many at-bats are we going to have for a corner outfielder/DH? On the surface, as we are currently constructed, not a lot. Things could change. That's the reality."
Another guy fighting for a 2020 roster spot is left-hander Brock Burke (0-1, 5.19), who is scheduled to make his sixth career start on Saturday.
The 23-year-old served up three home runs -- two to Khris Davis -- in a 14-9 home loss to the A's last Friday. He did not get a decision in the game after allowing six runs in three innings in his only career head-to-head matchup with Oakland.
--Field Level Media
A's, unlike Rangers, charging toward playoff spot
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