A's have balanced formula for playoff run

September 29th, 2020

After a week of pondering several possible matchups, the A’s have an opponent locked in for the first round of the playoffs.

Sealing the No. 2 seed in the American League following a 6-2 win over the Mariners on Sunday, the A’s will host the No. 7 seed White Sox in the Wild Card Series, which begins Tuesday at the Coliseum.

How do they advance out of the Wild Card Series?
The A’s have visions of bringing Oakland its first World Series title since 1989. To do that, an offense that went stagnant over the final week of the regular season will need to pick up the pace. The A’s were limited to three runs or less in six of their final eight games, and two runs or less in four of those eight.

The numbers on offense do not look great, but signs of a turnaround were evident in the final game of the regular season. The lineup has no shortage of talent, from Tommy La Stella at the top to a strong middle that includes Marcus Semien, Mark Canha and Matt Olson.

“Any feeling of confidence can blossom into something really good,” A’s infielder Chad Pinder said after Sunday’s win. “Ending the season with a win like that, tied through seven innings and you get a big home run, those are things people may look back on as the energy you need going forward. Hopefully, we can continue that positivity going into this three-game series.”

What does the blueprint for a championship run look like?
The A’s have a clear strength in their bullpen, which leads the Majors with a 2.76 ERA. This takes some pressure off of the starters. If the A’s can get just five or six quality innings from starting pitchers, a dominant bullpen led by closer Liam Hendriks can shorten a game pretty quickly.

What is one reason for concern?
The loss of star third baseman Matt Chapman impacted the A’s in more ways than one. Sure, they miss his Gold and Platinum Glove defense, along with his steady presence as a power hitter in the middle of the order. But his absence also affects the A’s in the clubhouse.

In a normal season, the A’s would have Chapman around the club for emotional support. But due to safety guidelines for 2020, Chapman, Oakland’s unquestioned team leader, is unable to be with the club after undergoing season-ending hip surgery.

If the A’s are going to complete their World Series goal, it will have to come with Chapman watching back home in Southern California.

“We think about him a lot,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Even though he’s not with us on the field, it would be great to have him with us because he’s such an emotional leader on this team. We miss that dynamic, too.

“In a different scenario, we probably have him with us rehabbing here and have his voice and enthusiasm. It’s hard not to have that, because he’s meant so much to this team on and off the field. It looks like that’s not going to happen. It’s unfortunate, but we try to stay in as close contact with him as we can. I know it’s hurting him that he can’t be here.”