Rookies in spotlight as A's begin series in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- Two of baseball's best young hitters should provide some entertaining offense as the Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday evening.

The Athletics (64-82) arrive at Citizens Bank Park having just dropped two of three to the Boston Red Sox, though they are 6-4 in their past 10 games overall.

"We had some opportunities, and we had a couple actual baserunning mistakes early in the game that cost us," manager Bob Melvin said after a 6-2 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday. "But our bats all the way to the end are still pretty good. They're still grinding."

A's rookie Matt Olson is swinging a hot bat, coming on strong the last two months after taking over the starting first base job at the beginning of August. After hitting just .196 through 18 games (51 at-bats) from April through June, he is hitting .302 over his past 32 games (106 at-bats), with 14 home runs and 27 RBI since Aug. 8.

The Phillies (57-89) just finished off a three-game sweep of the Marlins on Thursday. Philadelphia won the finale 10-0.

And as impressive as Olson has been, Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins has been even better. His home run on Thursday night was his 18th in 34 games since an Aug. 10 call-up, continuing to extend a major league record. No player previously hit more than 15 dingers in his first 40 games.

Over his past 31 games, Hoskins is hitting .343 (37-for-108) with a .467 on-base percentage and all 18 of his home runs. And he is just part of a young Phillies core that is raking of late, joining catcher Jorge Alfaro (.308), center fielder Odubel Herrera (.291), right fielder Nick Williams (.300) and more.

"It's definitely exciting, for sure," Hoskins said. "When you get the mix of hitting up and down the lineup ... I think that in itself is pretty exciting."

Making his first career start against the Athletics will be rookie right-hander Mark Leiter Jr.

Leiter was called up for his major league debut in late April to join the Phillies' bullpen, and he made 16 relief appearances (as well as three starts) between April 28 and Aug. 10 before moving into the rotation full-time last month.

In his first eight career starts, Leiter is 3-4 with a 5.08 ERA, and he is 2/3 with a 6.11 ERA over the five starts since his last relief outing. His last time out, at Washington on Saturday, Leiter gave up four runs on six hits in six innings to earn a win.

Leiter will be opposed by Daniel Mengden, who is making the fourth start of his second year at the major league level.

Mengden (0-1, 7.07 ERA) had to deal with an offseason foot injury and a May rib injury. He hasn't quite been able to return to the form he flashed in his first four starts with Triple-A Nashville before the rib ailment, when he was 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA.

He was knocked around in his first two major league starts this season, giving up a total of nine runs in eight innings in a May 29 start at Cleveland and a June 3 start against the Nationals.

However, Mengden's last start out was an improvement. The right-hander lasted six innings against the Houston Astros on Saturday, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits without receiving a decision in an 11-4 win.

The Friday game will be his first career start against the Phillies.
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