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As the Oakland A’s took batting practice and the Houston Astros stretched in right field, a small airplane dragged a sign over the Coliseum that read: Houston Asterisks.

Is this the biggest rivalry in baseball right now or has the tension eased between these two teams?

Alex Bregman spoke with some A’s players during the A’s BP. He was seen smiling and talking to Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Tony Kemp. They all circled around home plate and there didn’t seem to be tension in the air.

Simone McCarthy/SFBay Orange teddy bears are seen in the left field stands at the Oakland Coliseum as the A’s take on the Houston Astros on Friday, August 7, 2020.

Orange Teddy bears were placed in left-field that lay slumped in their seats in bright orange, hard to miss and pretty funny. They have been there prior to the series but it fits well for this one.

Some A’s fans plan to make their way over to the BART bridge outside the stadium to boo the Astros from afar. The gates are locked but their voices can carry and security was prepared for any commotion which may arise.

Oakland has made it very clear publicly that the cheating scandal is behind them. What may have came off being a little too politically correct may actually be the plain truth. As the A’s ran into their clubhouse to let the Astros take the field for batting practice, an unidentifiable A’s player could be heard yelling:

“Fuck that sign.”

This “rivalry” may all be in fans’ heads. Bob Melvin before the game said the Astros may be their current rival, but made it more about the game than Mike Fiers calling out his former team:

“There are certain rivalries last for certain periods of time. We have come in second the last couple years and they have come in first, so it is natural as far as saying it’s a rivalry …. It feels a little different knowing that they won the division the last couple of years.”

The Astros have adjusted their pitching order for the series. Josh James was supposed to start Friday, but Greinke (0-0, 5.00 ERA) took the mound instead. The Astros are 2-1/2 games behind the A’s headed into the three-game series. The two teams will play another three in Houston on Aug. 28 as the season gets closer to playoff ball.

Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.93 ERA) will start his third game of the season Friday. He has been the A’s most impressive starter, with a win this season in 9-2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts. The Astros have ten players on their injured list, but Melvin knows they will still need to play good baseball to beat them:

“They are a little bit banged up right now, the pitching probably doesn’t look like it has in the past but the guys that they have that they still have a really deep lineup. They are all starting to swing the bat a little bit better right now. They even have some of the younger players that are playing well, guys like [Kyle] Tucker and [Abraham] Toro and guys we have seen a little bit in the past … It looks like they changed their pitching around a little bit for us too.”

Melvin said some guys in the bullpen are not well rested and he will act accordingly:

“It doesn’t matter who you are playing, you are not going to push somebody at this point and time in the year, especially the guys that throw for a higher velocity. We just have to deal with what we have. It is not uncommon that you are down a couple of guys, multiple times during the course of the season and that is when your depth comes into play and we feel like we have good depth in our bullpen.” 

Dusty Baker and Bob Melvin didn’t see each other prior to the game but others gave “Covid hugs” and spoke with one another prior to the game. There seemed to be no tension, you wouldn’t even know what happened in the 2019 offseason.

Mike Fiers was not seen on the field prior to the game. He pitched on Thursday night and has been sitting behind the A’s dugout for every home game so far in 2020 with his other starting pitcher teammates.

Simone McCarthy

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