The Yankees will host the Athletics in tonight's American League Wild Card Game, with the winner heading north to Boston for an AL Division Series showdown with the Red Sox. New York and Oakland split the season series, 3-3, with the Yankees winning two of three at Yankee Stadium in mid-May and the A's doing the same at the Coliseum in early September. The two powerful lineups ranked 1-2 in the AL in home runs this season, while both pitching staffs posted an ERA under 4.00, two of only six AL teams to do so in 2018. How do these teams match up? Let's break down the crucial questions in advance of tonight's one-and-done game.
When is the AL Wild Card Game and how can I watch it?
Tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TBS.
What do the starting lineups look like?
The Yankees are going with switch-hitter Aaron Hicks in the third spot, between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and moved slugging first baseman Luke Voit up to fifth in the order, behind Stanton. The Athletics go with Nick Martini in the leadoff spot against the right-handed Severino, moving Ramon Laureano to seventh.
1. Nick Martini, LF
2. Matt Chapman, 3B
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B
4. Khris Davis, DH
5. Matt Olson, 1B
6. Stephen Piscotty, RF
7. Ramon Laureano, CF
8. Marcus Semien, SS
9. Jonathan Lucroy, C
1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Luke Voit, 1B
6. Didi Gregorius, SS
7. Miguel Andujar, 3B
8. Gary Sanchez, C
9. Gleyber Torres, 2B
Who are the starting pitchers and how long will they last?
A's: Liam Hendriks will start for Oakland -- but he's an "opener." This will be a short outing by design for Hendriks, who's really a reliever -- likely no more than an inning or two, followed by heavy bullpen use. The A's have the relief arms to make it work. Plus, by now, opening games has become routine for Hendriks. The right-hander has done it eight times this season, all in September, including against the Yankees on Sept. 4, when he threw a scoreless first inning. Hendriks has not allowed a run in his last seven outings as an "opener" (all of which have lasted exactly one inning), after allowing two runs in 1 2/3 innings in his debut in the role against the Mariners on Sept. 1.
Video: SEA@OAK: Hendriks gets a clean start as the 'opener'
Yankees: Luis Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA) will start the Wild Card Game for a second straight year, with Masahiro Tanaka also on the roster in case Severino is forced to make an early exit. In last year's Wild Card Game against the Twins at Yankee Stadium, Severino was knocked out after just 1/3 of an inning, allowing three runs and two homers. This season, he was also touched up for six earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in two starts vs. the A's, including five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in an 8-2 loss in Oakland on Sept. 5. While J.A. Happ has been superb for the Yankees since he was acquired in late July (7-0, 2.69 ERA in 11 starts), New York would prefer to have him available to pitch twice in a potential ALDS matchup with Boston.
Video: NYY@TB: Severino tosses 5 solid innings in 19th win
How will the bullpen line up after the starter?
A's: Once the starter is done for the night, Shawn Kelley, Lou Trivino, Fernando Rodney, Jeurys Familia and Blake Treinen figure to handle the remainder of the game. Treinen could even be asked to pitch multiple innings if things are tight. Yusmeiro Petit might get into the game if innings are needed, while Ryan Buchter could be asked to face a tough lefty. Edwin Jackson, the only regular starting pitcher on the roster, could provide a few innings, especially if the game goes into extra innings.
Yankees: With a loaded relief corps including David Robertson, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman and Zach Britton, manager Aaron Boone has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The key question appears to be who would serve as the Yankees' closer. Chapman has been slowly working his way back from injury, while Britton has looked sharp in recent weeks. Boone envisions Chapman returning to the closer's role, though it remains to be seen whether that happens tonight.
Video: BOS@NYY: Chapman records 1st K in return from DL
Any injuries of note?
A's: Cory Gearrin (triceps) and Trivino (neck) have been dealing with nagging issues, though both are expected to be fine for the Wild Card Game. Trivino served as Oakland's "opener" on Friday night.
Yankees: Having returned to the lineup on Friday, there is cautious optimism that Gregorius (torn cartilage in his right wrist), who was on the roster released Wednesday morning, will be able to play in the Wild Card Game. Hicks, who missed time with tightness in his left hamstring, also started Friday and is expected to play against Oakland. Torres had been dealing with discomfort in his hip/groin area, but he returned to the lineup on Thursday afternoon.
What were the toughest roster decisions?
A's: Oakland went with an 11-man pitching staff for the Wild Card Game, making the biggest bench decision whether to take Franklin Barreto or Dustin Fowler as a pinch-runner. The A's went with Barreto. Josh Phegley, Chad Pinder and Matt Joyce are also on the bench, along with either Canha or Martini -- whichever player is not starting in left field.
Video: OAK@SD: Barreto clobbers his 1st homer of the year
Yankees: The Yankees are carrying 10 pitchers, including Severino, Tanaka, Happ and Lance Lynn (which means no CC Sabathia). Along with their big five bullpen arms, that left one more pitching spot, which went to right-hander Jonathan Holder over left Stephen Tarpley. The Yanks are also carrying Kyle Higashioka as a third catcher along with Sanchez and backup Austin Romine, as well as infielder Tyler Wade for his pinch-running ability. That left Greg Bird without a roster spot, as Voit is set to start the game at first base.
Video: NYY@BOS: Lynn K's Martinez, goes 3 relief innings
Is home-field advantage even that important?
The Yankees were 53-28 in the Bronx this season, while the A's won an impressive 47 games on the road.
Each team won the series against the other at home, but given the prodigious power in both lineups, playing at Yankee Stadium should benefit both.
While frigid conditions can often accompany October baseball in New York, tonight's forecast calls for temperatures in the low 70s, so cold won't be an issue.
Have these two teams met in the postseason before?
The Yankees and Athletics have squared off three times in the postseason, each time in a best-of-five series.
In 1981, Graig Nettles paced the Yankees with nine RBIs in a three-game AL Championship Series sweep of Oakland that sent New York to the World Series. The two teams didn't meet in the postseason again until the 2000 ALDS, when the Yanks needed a Game 5 victory at the Coliseum to win the series.
In 2001, the Yankees and Athletics went the distance for a second consecutive year in the ALDS. New York dropped the first two games at home before winning two in a row in Oakland -- the first with the help of Derek Jeter's immortal "flip play" -- before the Yanks won a decisive Game 5 for the second straight year.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.