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Athletics in Houston for big AL West showdown

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The Oakland Athletics took three of four from Minnesota this weekend while the Astros completed a sweep of the Angels. The puts Houston a mere one and a half games ahead of Oakland in the AL West, setting the stage for the final head-to-head series between the two clubs.

These two teams met last weekend in Oakland with the A’s taking two of three. Now the series shifts to Houston, kicking off tonight with Brett Anderson — who has not allowed a run in his past two starts and is on a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings — taking on Gerrit Cole. On Tuesday it’s Edwin Jackson vs. Charlie Morton. On Wednesday it’s Trevor Cahill vs. Dallas Keuchel.

The Athletics were double digits out of first place as late as July 10 but in the past nine days have tied the Astros in the standings on three occasions before falling just a bit back. A sweep by either team would certainly make a statement. Whether that statement is “we’re not going anyplace, champs” or “know your place, upstarts” remains to be seen, but it’s easily the most important series going on this week.

Nathan Eovaldi likely to be activated this weekend

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Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi is likely to be activated from the 10-day injured list this weekend and will join the bullpen, per Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston.

Eovaldi, 29, had a superb postseason showing with the Red Sox last year, including a six-inning relief appearance in Game 3 of the World Series. That propelled him to ink a four-year, $68 million contract with the Red Sox in December.

Eovaldi underwent athroscopic surgery in April to remove loose bodies in his elbow and has been out ever since. He had allowed 14 earned runs on 21 hits and 11 walks with 16 strikeouts in 21 innings prior to going on the IL.

The Red Sox bullpen has been middling at best this season, owning a composite 4.55 ERA. Six different relievers have accrued saves, none more than Ryan Brasier‘s seven and he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this week. It’s quite possible Eovaldi finds himself closing out games down the stretch.