Unsung A's open second half against White Sox

The Oakland Athletics are typically overlooked on a national scale but are right in the thick of the American League wild-card race as play resumes after the All-Star break.

The Athletics (50-41) are 1 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians for the second berth as they begin a three-game series on Friday against the visiting Chicago White Sox.

Oakland reached the wild-card game last season after a 97-win season and figures it can reach the postseason again.

All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman sees the talent on the team but doesn't see matching recognition.

Chapman participated in the Home Run Derby and was conscious that the appearance may have a carryover effect in terms of enlightening more people about the Athletics.

"I take pride in my team and really love my teammates," Chapman said during a media session at the All-Star Game. "To be able to get us some attention is huge because I feel like there are a lot of guys on our team that deserve it and anything we can get will be good for us."

Chapman, who is batting .264, leads Oakland with 21 homers and 52 RBI. He is one of seven Athletics in double digits in homers.

First baseman Matt Olson (19), designated hitter Khris Davis (16) and center fielder Ramon Laureano (16) are among the others for a squad that ranks fourth in the AL with 145 blasts.

The White Sox (42-44) don't pack a lot of power as they rank 13th in the AL with 103 homers. All-Star first baseman Jose Abreu has 21 with third baseman Yoan Moncada and left fielder Eloy Jimenez next with 16.

Jimenez, a 22-year-old rookie, is batting .241 but is loaded with promise. He called the first half of the season as a learning session.

"It's way different here," Jimenez told reporters. "With the fans and all the stuff, you need to be ready every single day. In the minors, it's good. You need to be ready, but not like here.

"As a team, we've been pretty good. Nobody expected we are going to be where we are at now. But we have been playing really good. For me, it's been good, but it's going to be better."

The White Sox will start right-hander Ivan Nova (4-7, 5.58 ERA), who halted a seven-start winless stretch by beating the Chicago Cubs last Sunday.

The 32-year-old Nova allowed five hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings to post his first victory since May 22.

Nova's ERA is third worst in the majors among qualifiers.

Nova is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against Oakland.

The Athletics tabbed right-hander Mike Fiers (8-3, 3.87) to make the start.

The 34-year-old has won six consecutive decisions, a streak that began when he threw his second career no-hitter on May 7 against the Cincinnati Reds.

Fiers has allowed one earned run in each of his past four starts, including a July 3 effort against the Minnesota Twins in which he gave up two total runs and five hits over six innings.

Fiers is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in six career outings against the White Sox.

Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson is 4-for-10 with a homer against Fiers.

--Field Level Media
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