OAKLAND -- The A’s could be the team that benefits the most from baseball’s expanded playoffs for the 2020 season.
It’s no secret that the one-game Wild Card format has been the A’s kryptonite. Their last three postseason appearances have all ended in heartbreaking fashion with losses in that game, including back-to-back American League Wild Card Game losses in each of the last two seasons. Now, instead of a sudden-death Wild Card Game, the postseason will begin with a Wild Card round consisting of a best-of-three series, with all games at the higher seed’s home ballpark.
“I think it gives us a better chance to accomplish our goal of winning the World Series,” A’s shortstop Marcus Semien said of the new format. “It’s a little bit more baseball, so we have to focus on our health and staying strong towards the end of the season. Hopefully, when we get [to October], we’re in that group of teams.”
Of course, the A’s were already strategizing their own way of avoiding a one-game playoff in the old postseason format, entering the season with a goal of overtaking the Astros for AL West supremacy by capturing their first division title since 2013.
The goal does not change with this new format. However, expanding the postseason from 10 teams to 16 does lessen the pressure a bit for clubs to get off to a hot start early in the season, which could help a group like the A’s, who have been known to start off slow in recent years.
“With so few games [in the regular season], to be able to add on postseason games is great,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It creates a pretty even playing field for just about anybody to get into this thing. Originally, you felt like if you didn’t get off to a great start, you didn’t have a chance. Now, with 16 teams, not saying you don’t want to get off to a great start, but 16 is more than half the teams. This season will revolve around the postseason and I think it’s probably the right thing to do this year.”
Puk begins throwing
After a 48-hour rest period following a PRP cortisone shot to alleviate inflammation in his left shoulder, A.J. Puk is back with the club and resumed playing catch on Friday.
There is still no timetable for a return, and Melvin does not expect Puk to advance past the playing catch stage for a while.
"It’s gonna be at least a couple of weeks of this,” Melvin said. “He took the 48 hours and played catch today. I’m not going to have a ton of updates for him for at least a week because it’s going to be at least a couple of weeks of just playing catch and not too far out. We’re a ways off before we have another update on him.”
Puk, Oakland’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was set to enter the starting rotation this season before a shoulder strain last week landed the left-hander on the 10-day injured list retroactive to July 20. His rotation spot will be filled by right-hander Daniel Mengden, who is set to make his first start of the regular season on Tuesday against the Rockies at the Oakland Coliseum.