New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throws a pitch against the Houston Astros in the second inning on October 21, 2017 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The top two teams in the American League wild-card race meet in a possible postseason preview when the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics hook up in a three-game series starting with a holiday matinee Monday afternoon.
San Francisco Bay Area native CC Sabathia (7-5, 3.36 ERA) of the Yankees and Trevor Cahill (5-3, 3.60) of the A's draw the starting assignments in the opener of a series that could go a long way toward determining who hosts the AL wild-card game in October.
The Yankees (86-51) will take the field with a 4 1/2-game lead over the A's (82-56) for the top AL wild-card spot with four weeks remaining in the regular season.
New York took two of three from Oakland in an earlier series in May in which neither Sabathia nor Cahill pitched. The A's blew a 6-2 lead and lost 7-6 in 11 innings in the turning point of the series after having won the opener 10-5.
While the A's were splitting a key four-game series against the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees on Sunday were completing a disappointing 3-4 homestand against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.
Sabathia pitched one of the losses, allowing three runs and five hits in six innings in a 4-1 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday.
The 38-year-old, who attended the same high school (Vallejo High, about 30 miles north of Oakland) as Coney Island hot dog-eating legend Joey Chestnut, has started 31 games in his career against the A's, going 11-11 with a 4.55 ERA.
He hasn't often been at his best in his homecomings, going 5-7 with a 5.20 ERA in 16 starts.
The Yankees will feature a different look than when the A's saw them last with the recent acquisition of Andrew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants.
McCutchen has yet to get a hit in two games since joining New York, going 0-for-7.
While they await the return of injured stars Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees will get one familiar face back in pinstripes Monday when manager Aaron Boone returns from a one-game suspension that resulted from a tirade against umpire Nic Lentz in Friday's win over the Tigers.
Cahill has never beaten the Yankees in his career, going 0-4 in six meetings, including five starts.
Before watching Sunday's 11-7 loss to Detroit from a suite, Boone noted that he's expecting to see way more than just a starting pitcher when facing the A's.
"They've really bolstered their bullpen. It's a pen that can shorten games," Boone said of the recent additions of Fernando Rodney and Jeurys Familia to complement standout Blake Treinen. "They've [also] got some young players kind of take that step into stardom a little bit. We know we got our hands full."
The A's got six solid innings from starter Edwin Jackson in Sunday's 8-2 win over the Mariners that pushed Seattle 5 1/2 games back in the race for the second AL wild-card spot.
A's manager Bob Melvin was happy his club was able to take care of business against the Mariners, responding to losses Thursday and Saturday with wins Friday and Sunday, with the Yankees headed to town.
"Certain times a split feels a little bit better than others," he said. "This was one of them."