These Billy Beane-led A's, so often unconventional in their methods, are going off script and readying to bullpen the heck out of the Wild Card Game. The implementation of an opener, though progressively prevalent around baseball in recent weeks following the Rays' lead, has never been used on the postseason stage.
"The one-game scenario gives us a chance to use the best guys to get 27 outs," A's general manager David Forst said. "It's different from the regular season. It's different from an extended five- or seven-game series. It's a unique situation, and it's really the only opportunity we have to put our best guys out there, and that's what Bob is going to do."
Oakland, consistently reliant on the back end of its bullpen during a 97-win season, must bridge a vast gap between Hendriks and All-Star closer Blake Treinen, who will likely be counted on for at least two innings, if not three, depending on what the situation dictates. If it's two innings for Treinen, that leaves a minimum of six innings reserved for the A's next-best arms after Hendriks.
The second through fifth innings will likely call for some combination of Lou Trivino, Shawn Kelley, Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Buchter. From there, Oakland would roll out setup men Fernando Rodney and Jeurys Familia for one inning apiece ahead of Treinen's entrance.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson, the assumed lone starter on the roster over Mike Fiers, would be preserved for extra innings, with right-handers Emilio Pagan and J.B. Wendelken also available should the penciled-in plan go awry. The A's have kept mum on all of this, though.
"We're not going to be able to plan for every scenario," Forst said. "We've talked about Liam. From there, the possibilities are infinite. We'll plan for as many possibilities as we can, but everything will still be on the table up until game time."
Melvin, who will be orchestrating it all, met with his pitchers ahead of Tuesday's workout at Yankee Stadium to dissect the varied blueprints that could be rolled out.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will counter with right-hander Luis Severino, who turned in a 5.57 ERA in the second half following sterling beginnings. He recorded just one out in last year's Wild Card Game against the Twins, allowing four hits -- including two homers -- and three runs before New York bailed him out.
"We have to do what's best for our team," Melvin said. "We talked about it at length. We've gone through a couple different options we're still weighing, maybe the last particular pieces of it, but we've been communicating. These guys have handled a lot this year to get to where we are, so I think they're up for anything and they just want to win."
"I think it's important just to focus on when your name is called, to go out and do your job," Treinen said. "You know, our job in the bullpen -- as players, as starters or whatever the role may be -- is to get outs. That's what we get paid to do. That's what we've worked our whole lives to do. The whole season, we've been doing it. If you get caught up in anything more than that, I think it's kind of silly. So just focus on what we're here to accomplish, to win a ballgame.
"No matter how it has to get done, it has to get done."
It will be Hendriks' ninth assignment as an opener since being thrust into the role Sept. 1 following a promotion from Triple-A. The right-hander, who remained in the organization after being designated for assignment in June, did not allow a first-inning run in any of the previous eight starting assignments, holding opponents to five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Hendriks held the Yankees hitless as an opener at the Coliseum on Sept. 4. The A's are 4-4 when he opens, though a starter has always followed him -- until now.
"All it means is I'm relieving in the first inning," Hendriks said.
Fiers, acquired from Detroit on Aug. 6, was Oakland's best pitcher down the stretch, turning in a 3.74 ERA in 10 outings after the trade. His last appearance was an outlier, as he was asked to pitch after an opener for the first time and responded by allowing six runs over 3 1/3 innings in Anaheim on Friday.
"I want to be able to start the game for this team and put us in a position to win, but this game is crucial, so if they feel like the bullpen matches up better, then we got to do that," Fiers said. "It's all about getting to the next round, no matter how it's played out. It's hard for me to really tell them what to do, because they have the numbers."
The injury-ravaged A's are down to four true starting pitchers -- Fiers, Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson -- and would call upon them should they advance to the AL Division Series against the Red Sox. But they must get there first.
"Our bullpen has just been able to pick us up and keep us in so many games, so I understand the decision, and I feel like it's just kind of like the Yankees, going with Severino," A's third baseman Matt Chapman said. "If you're going to get beat, you want to get beat with your guys, or win or lose, you want your guys on the mound."
Oakland's relievers compiled a 3.35 ERA in the regular season, second best in the AL only to Houston's 3.03 and just ahead of the Yankees' 3.38. New York, too, is expected to unleash a stream of feared relievers tonight after Severino with the season on the line.
"We have guys in the front office that do a lot of research to put us in the best situations for success, and I think it's our job to put some faith in them," Treinen said. "We've got the arms to make this make sense.
"This is a must-win situation for us, and we all know that, and I think we're all just willing to do whatever it takes to win. You can't say going with a starter for seven innings is the best way. You can't say that going an opener is the best way. But this is what's going to work for us, and we're going to ride it out, and we have full faith in whoever makes the decisions. I'm excited to see what this game does, because it's kind of a first of its kind, and I think we all fully embrace that."
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.