Well, here we are at the American League game. Just like last night, the game will last thirteen innings across five hours, only the score will be 12-11. Everyone will say that it’s better baseball, even though it will be 6-1 for innings 4-6 and we’ll all be really bored.
Half the audience will be rooting for the Rebuildin’ A’s to beat the Mighty Yankees, half will feel aggrieved by the 100-win Yankees having their entire season come down to one game. The aggrieved will get the most airtime before, during, and after the game, regardless of the outcome. The A’s will be patted on the head and told they’re a fun story. And, hey, they had a movie made about them.
When you pull up the Baseball Reference page for the A’s franchise, this is what fills up most of the screen (ignore the yellow highlight; it means nothing, and I was too lazy to redo the jpeg without it):
That’s a lot of postseason losing. The Yankees, though, are surprising —
It’s amazing how much of a halo effect that ‘96-2000 run has had. It’s still a lot of success with plenty of postseason games played, a situation basically every other franchise would like to be in, but when it comes to dominance, it just seems like the A’s have gotten the short end of the stick: the A’s should be able to beat them.
Of course, the last time the A’s were in the Wild Card Game, they were the Yankees going up against the Royals’ version of the A’s. Think about it: the Royals were a young, fast, exciting team going up against an aging team in year three of a competition window. The Yankees are hardly nearing the end of a competition window, but the A’s seemingly have the juice. Although, it should be noted that the A’s roster is almost two years older than the Yankees (by average) and this year’s A’s team is a full year older than that 2014 team (Fernando Rodney, Santiago Casilla, and Jed Lowrie really do tilt things).
But then there’s the matter of the A’s having a dearth of starting pitching. Too many injuries, too many Cahills, and so the A’s will resort to starting “an opener” — Liam Hendricks — ahead of a full deployment of their bullpen.
The key to using an opener involves being able to work backwards to get to him. The A’s have one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball this century, Blake Treinen, to work the 9th, but who could also work the 8th. #ForeverGiant (I don’t even know if this is ironic now) Yusmeiro Petit has the next-most innings out of the ‘pen and could piggyback Hendricks or come in around the 6th to serve as a bridge to Treinen, if necessary. Still, the opener has largely been a negative strategy for the A’s over the past month.
Since 2013, the A’s have a 3-1-1 series record against the Yankees. That 1 tie is this season’s series, currently tied at 3. Does this mean that tonight is in the A’s favor?
Since the Wild Card game began in 2012, 7 of the 12 WC games have been won by the ROAD team.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 29, 2018
Of course, the A’s were one of the five road teams that didn’t win a road Wild Card, but at least the narrative trend is in their favor.
MEANWHILE, and perhaps MORE IMPORTANTLY...
Tonight's #Yankees lineup:— Lou DiPietro (@LouDiPietroYES) October 3, 2018
Andrew McCutchen – LF
Aaron Judge – RF
Aaron Hicks – CF
Giancarlo Stanton – DH
Luke Voit – 1B
Didi Gregorius – SS
Miguel Andujar – 3B
Gary Sanchez – C
Gleyber Torres – 2B
RHP Luis Severino
Here’s the scouting report for A’s opener Liam Hendriks (0-1, 4.33 FIP):
Liam Hendricks, Oakland’s opener for tomorrow night, started off year on a tough note, allowing 9 ER in 11 IP, then ended up hitting the disabled list. He returned from DL in September after missing two months & allowed 2 ER in total of 13 IP (0 runs since first outing).— Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein) October 2, 2018
He’s the first Australian to start a playoff game. He was also DFA’d earlier in the year.
Prior to the biggest start of his career, he was really Crocodile Dundee’ing it up:
A's opener Liam Hendricks went to the Met yesterday and enjoyed seeing the midieval armor. He is reading a book about the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings.— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) October 2, 2018
Luis Severino (19-8, 2.95 FIP) has been the Yankees’ best starter all season long. He has a 5.23 ERA against the A’s in four career starts (20.2 innings) and a 6.23 ERA in two starts against them just this season (8.2 innings).
He also started last year’s Wild Card game and was pulled after giving up three runs on 2 home runs after only a third of an inning. The Yankees’ bullpen is such that they have seemingly 4-5 arms that could be legitimate closers on other teams, so if Severino’s start goes sideways for the second straight year, the Yankees are in virtually the same position as before to hold the opponent to only one run in 8.2 relief innings.