The 60-game season has wrapped up, and now it is time for the most unique postseason that MLB has ever seen. This year, eight teams from each league made the playoffs, as opposed to the previous rules with five per league. In a normal year, the AL West champion Oakland Athletics would have gotten the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series. This year, they will get the seven-seeded Chicago White Sox in the American League Wild Card Series instead.
Athletics vs White Sox: Wild Card Preview
The three-game series will take place at the Oakland Coliseum starting on September 29th. Neither team is particularly hot coming into this series. Chicago has lost nine of the last 12 to close out the regular season. On the other side of the diamond, Oakland has lost nine of the last 17, which includes five of the last eight games to close out the regular season. The series will likely be very close and could go to a full three games. FanGraphs currently gives the White Sox a 51% chance to win the series.
Oakland will be relying on the bats of Mark Canha, Robbie Grossman, and Matt Olson to get things going. Canha is currently leading the A’s with a .246 batting average. Olson is the only player to have played in all 60 games and fittingly leads the team in home runs with 14. Playing without Matt Chapman is definitely going to be an obstacle for the Athletics to try and overcome.
On the other side, the White Sox are at full strength. Both shortstop Tim Anderson and first baseman Jose Abreu are currently sitting with a batting average above .300. Eloy Jimenez is not far behind with a .296 average. Chicago also has five players with double-digit home runs this season: Abreu (19), Jimenez (14), Luis Robert (11), Anderson (10), and Edwin Encarnacion (10). This dwarves Oakland’s one active player with 10 or more home runs.
Game one sees the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito taking the mound against Jesus Luzardo. Giolito comes in with a 4-3 record in 12 starts with a 3.48 ERA for the year. Luzardo comes in with a 3-2 record in 9 starts and a 4.12 ERA. Luzardo’s last start was dominant when he went six innings against the Giants in a 6-0 win. Giolito’s last start was against the Indians where he pitched six innings and gave up two runs but fanned 11 batters. It will also be the first playoff start for either pitcher.
Game two will see the American League Pitcher of the Month for September, Chris Bassitt, taking the mound for Oakland. Opposite of Bassitt will likely be Dallas Keuchel. This is the one to tune in for. Both players come in with the best ERA for starters on their team. Bassitt is at a 2.29 and Keuchel is at 1.99. They also have the best records for starters on their teams. Bassitt sits at 5-2, while Keuchel comes in at 6-2. Game two will certainly be a pitchers duel and will also be an elimination game.
Game three, if necessary, will most likely see either Dane Dunning or Dylan Cease take the mound for Chicago. Oakland’s choice for a potential game three is not as clear cut, but Sean Manaea is probably the guy you go to. Mike Minor or Mike Fiers could be other potential options, as well.
All in all, this should be a very good and tightly contested series. Either team could come out on top, which is something you are seeing in a lot of this year’s postseason matchups. It could end up being a real March Madness-esque postseason in Major League Baseball. The Athletics versus White Sox series could be among the most interesting of them.
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