OAKLAND -- As the A’s quickly found out last season, the first time is always difficult.
Around this time last year, many of the young A’s players who comprised the 97-win squad of 2018 were getting their feet wet with their first taste of the postseason. It didn’t help that they had to walk into the beehive of noise that is Yankee Stadium, where volume only seems to amplify in October.
But sometimes you have to take your lumps, which the A’s certainly did in a 7-2 loss to the Yankees in the 2018 American League Wild Card Game, in order to get better. Approaching the 2019 AL Wild Card Game against the Rays on Wednesday, the A’s believe last year’s experience only made them stronger.
“There’s a quiet confidence about this group, kind of like last year, but I think this group has overcome even more adversity,” A’s third baseman Matt Chapman said. “Last year, we kind of just cruised in the second half to make it. This team fought all year, battled through injuries, and we have a lot of the same guys coming back from last year’s playoffs. We have experience, and I think that makes us dangerous.”
This year, a raucous environment could work in the A's favor, as an estimated crowd of around 57,000 fans is expected to pack the Oakland Coliseum on Wednesday. The A’s have always performed well at home over the last decade, but that was especially true during the 2019 regular season, when they posted an exceptional 52-29 home record; in Oakland, it's 52-27, as they were the designated home club for two games in Japan to open the season. Their 52 wins at home gave the A’s their seventh-best home record in Oakland history.
“We have played well here this year,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve had this game a couple of times on the road and that hasn’t worked out well for us. It can get pretty raucous here. We’re excited about having it here.
“We’ve been through it before last year. We played in a tough venue and got off to a rough start, which didn’t help things. Those are all parts of the reason we’re happy to be home.”
It’s called home-field advantage for a reason, but when looking back on last year’s Wild Card Game loss at Yankee Stadium, the A’s don’t necessarily see that as the deciding factor. It came down to execution by Yankees pitchers, who managed to keep a strong A’s lineup in check.
“I think last year, we did everything we could,” A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano said. “The Yankees pitched a good game. I went back to analyze everything, and we did everything we could. We didn’t swing out of the zone. We were always in the zone, but they never threw anything in the zone. They were hitting all the corners.
“But this year, we’re a different team. We know we’re prepared. We’ve shown all year that we always perform well against the good teams.”
A win would be Oakland’s first in the postseason since 2013 and would earn the A's a trip to Houston for a matchup with the division-rival Astros in the AL Division Series. A loss would send them home in the Wild Card round for the third time in the past six years. These A’s aren’t ready to go home just yet.
“The sky is the limit. We’re capable of anything,” A’s outfielder Mark Canha said. “We like each other so much and have a lot of fun. The amount of talent we have on this club is through the roof. I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do.”
Piscotty not on Wild Card roster
Outfielder Stephen Piscotty battled his way back from a right ankle sprain to earn a start in the final game of the regular season after being out since Aug. 24, but he’ll be left off of Wednesday’s AL Wild Card roster.
The A’s won’t announce their full 25-man roster until Wednesday morning, but Melvin revealed during Tuesday’s media workout at the Coliseum that Piscotty would not have a spot. In Piscotty’s absence, Canha has emerged with a breakout year at the plate, handling center field while Laureano temporarily moved to right field as the A’s eased him back from a right shin injury.
A source told MLB.com that Franklin Barreto will make the roster, likely as a pinch-runner option, as he was used in last year’s AL Wild Card Game against the Yankees.
“Stephen won’t be on tomorrow’s roster. I feel bad for him,” Melvin said. “He worked hard to get back and did play a game, but you have to look at some of the other intangibles as far as guys on the roster and what they can add to it."