Today the Oakland Athletics embark on their third consecutive season in the playoffs. The last two years, the A’s failed to win the division and were forced to play in the Wild Card Game. Both times, the A’s lost and their postseason dreams ended just like that. This season with the 60-game schedule due to the pandemic, the A’s won the West and don’t have to worry about a one-game schedule. They will now play a best-of-three set against the Chicago White Sox. The A’s will play all these first round games in Oakland, which is a nice reward for winning the division. It’s a different format than previous years because of the pandemic but I won’t complain about it. The A’s clearly were the best in the division and have earned this right.
But will they win this series? Will they go far into the postseason?
Having watched the A’s this season I believe that they have what it takes to win it all. However, they need to be so perfect in everything they do in these playoffs. On paper they are not the best but they have found ways to get it done on the field, leading them to a 36-24 record this seasons.
The team’s starting rotation has been very impressive down the stretch. The A’s will start stud rookie lefty Jesus Luzardo in Game 1 and he has electric stuff to propel the A’s to a win. But the Chicago White Sox have feasted on lefty pitching so it’s a gamble for Oakland but it could work out. Chris Bassitt has been the clear No. 1 starter for this team and will get the nod for the next game. He has been by far the team’s most consistent pitcher and could very well see himself as the top guy next season. Sean Manaea has found his groove and could see a Game 3 start if that is necessary. Mike Fiers and Frankie Montas have been decent this year but probably won’t see any action in the first round.
The bullpen for Oakland has been tremendous. If it comes down to the final three innings, you can expect to see Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria and Jake Diekman get in before giving away to closer Liam Hendriks. The pen has been the backbone of this team and despite a shaky couple games to end the season, they are as reliable as any other pen in the majors.
Perhaps the biggest factor is the team’s offense. Can they match up with Chicago? The White Sox have all the power with Jose Abreu and with the rise of Tim Anderson this season. The A’s pitching will try to cool down their bats but it may come to Oakland trying to match up with them. Matt Olson has that kind of power and the A’s hope that he can improve his strikeout rate this series. I see that Marcus Semien will need to step up after a down year and unsung heroes like catchers (Sean Murphy or Jonah Heim) may play a big role in this series as well. Consistent bats like Robbie Grossman and Ramon Laureano, who has started to hit better, will also be a major factor into the equation. Perhaps the biggest wild card may come from Chad Pinder, who recently came back from injury and has been a reliable utility player that might see some starts in this series. It’s not an all-star lineup but it’s a lineup that has had some clutch hits (six walk-off wins this year) and late-inning heroics.
The team matches up well with the White Sox. Chicago was strong but tailed off in the final week which forced them into this Wild Card slot. Will they get it together or not? Can Oakland find a way to get out of the first round after failing to do so in their last five attempts over the past decade? I would like to think the A’s, with their past experience, have what it takes to at least win this series.
What happens beyond? We will see if we get there. This has been an odd season and the postseason could also get a little strange too.