ATHLETICS (33-33) AT RAYS (40-24)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-SUN, NBCSCA, MLB.TV
Few pitchers, if any, have ever made their first major league start matched up with a guy who has gone unbeaten in his last 20 outings.
But such will be the case for right-hander Tanner Anderson when the Oakland Athletics open a three-game road series Monday night against Charlie Morton and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Anderson was in the dugout Sunday in Arlington, Texas, when the A’s rebounded from a doubleheader sweep on Saturday with a nail-biting, 9-8 victory that allowed them to split the four-game series with the Texas Rangers.
Due in part to the doubleheader, and in part because Daniel Mengden was demoted earlier in the week, Anderson is expected to be formally added to the Athletics’ active roster in time to face one of baseball’s best teams and best pitchers.
If anything is comforting about Anderson’s arrival, it’s that he was greeted in the Oakland dugout by a friendly face, catcher Beau Taylor. They were teammates at Triple-A Las Vegas, and they are expected to be the battery on Monday night, with A’s manager Bob Melvin announcing Sunday that his regular catcher, Josh Phegley, desperately needs a day off.
Phegley caught all or part of seven of Oakland’s games over a six-day stretch last week. Melvin thought about inserting Taylor on Sunday, but Phegley talked him out of it, then contributed a hit, a walk, an RBI and two runs to the narrow win.
“I gave him the option today, and he wanted to catch,” Melvin said. “He realizes he’s got a great opportunity right now and wants to catch as much as he can.”
Taylor, who went 1-for-5 in a cameo for the A’s last season, was hitting .297 at Las Vegas this season at the time of his call-up. He has yet to make his major league season debut.
Anderson didn’t have as much success in his 11 games for the Triple-A club, going 4-4 with a 6.26 ERA.
The 26-year-old Harvard product pitched six games in relief for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, going 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA. He has never faced the Rays, or any other American League team.
He also has never gone head-to-head with Morton (7-0, 2.30 ERA), who has been bad news for most of the 13 starters who have opposed him this season. The Rays have won nine of those games.
Morton didn’t get a decision in any of the four losses, extending his unbeaten streak to 20 starts, tops among active pitchers.
He has pitched shutout ball for six or more innings four times already this season, and he has grown accustomed to winning.
“I try not to put too much importance on one start, or any one particular start, or any strand of starts,” Morton said. “I try to make my goals really attainable. I go out there, throw strike one, get the first out. And then I just do that throughout the whole game. I’m really not looking at the gravity of a situation.”
The 35-year-old is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in five career starts against the A’s. He didn’t get a decision in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 loss at Oakland last August in the game that began his 20-game unbeaten streak.
Both teams spent all of last week on the road. The Rays went 5-2 at Detroit and Boston while the A’s opened a 10-game trip going 4-3 against the Los Angeles Angels and Texas.
–Field Level Media