The Oakland Athletics are within striking distance of claiming one of the wild-card spots in the American League, with Boston and Toronto tied for the top spot. With the New York Yankees in an apparent free-fall, the A's will have a chance to make up some ground with a three-game series in Kansas City.
Heading into Monday's action in Kansas City, the A's are tied with the Mariners with a 77-66 record, three games behind the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and one behind the Yankees, who have lost 12 of their last 15 games heading into a game against the Minnesota Twins. The A's will open the series with the Royals on Tuesday night with right-hander Frankie Montas (12-9, 3.57 ERA) going against right-hander Jackson Kowar (0-3, 9.53 ERA).
The A's missed a chance to make up ground when they lost two out of three at home to last-place Texas over the weekend. The three-game series with the Royals will be Games 4-6 in a nine-game stretch in which the A's play teams with losing records (they finish the stretch with a three-game series at the Angels).
"Any series now is a tough one to lose," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said after Sunday's 4-3 loss. "It doesn't matter who you're playing at this point. You've got to win series. We're going to have to run off either series in a row or games in a row."
Montas has won three straight starts and has been pretty impressive doing so. He's allowed four earned runs in 20 2/3 innings (1.74 ERA). He struck out 20 in those three starts, but he also issued six walks. Maybe the Royals are just what he needs, as they are last in the majors in walks (370) in 2021.
In his last start, a 5-1 victory over the White Sox, Montas allowed one run on six hits in seven innings. He's 2-1 in his career against the Royals with a 1.96 ERA.
"It's been a tough last four games," Montas said after that start. "Getting the win tonight puts us in the right direction. All the guys hit tonight. Bringing that into tomorrow's game is huge for us."
Kowar has been better since returning from Triple-A Omaha, but he's been far from spectacular. After three starts where he allowed a combined 10 earned runs in five innings, he's allowed eight earned runs in 12 innings.
The walks have hurt him as well, as he has issued six in those 12 innings since his return. But he's thrown six innings in both of his starts.
In his last start, in Baltimore on Sept. 7, he gave up four runs in the first inning before settling down. He gave up six earned runs in six innings, walking three and striking out seven. Kowar is 0-1 against the A's with a 27.00 ERA.
"He was trying to make perfect pitches (to) the first two hitters," Royals manager Mike Matheny said after the game. "You walk the first two guys of the game, you're going to find yourself in a little bit of a mess. And then I think he lost some of the confidence in his fastball, and his fastball's too good to not keep trying to grind through it.
"But he did a very good job of staying in the game by pitching a very uncharacteristic game for him. (He) used his slider I'm sure more than he's ever used it in his life -- probably his best pitch today."
--Field Level Media