How the White Sox can advance past the A's

September 29th, 2020

CHICAGO -- It took until Sunday evening before the White Sox found out they were going to Oakland for the 2020 AL Wild Card Series to begin their first foray into the postseason since 2008.

This best-of-three competition marks the first time the two teams have met this season and the first time they will go against each other in the postseason. Despite finishing the regular season with nine losses in their last 12 games, the White Sox are looking forward to a new beginning on the West Coast.

“I don't think we've set our sights on anything other than winning,” White Sox catcher James McCann said. “It's unrealistic to say that we're just going to roll through the playoffs.

“Every team's going to have their hurdles they have to overcome. But I like the way our team is composed, and we have a shot to do some damage and make a deep run.”

How do they advance out of the Wild Card Series?
Historically, the White Sox have not played well in Oakland, with a 1-8 mark at the Coliseum over the last three years. So, for starters, the White Sox need to leave history in the past.

and don’t necessarily need to be dominant in Games 1 and 2, respectively, as the White Sox have a strong bullpen with the key components fairly well rested. But if Giolito and Keuchel can work deep into those two games, it allows the White Sox to be creative with a Game 3 starter, if necessary. Of course, it would be easier for all involved if Giolito and Keuchel were completely on target and helped the White Sox win two and advance.

Oakland has the possibility of starting and , who are both southpaws. The White Sox finished the season with a 14-0 record against left-handed starters, becoming the first team in Major League history to go undefeated through a whole season against left-handers (STATS). So they probably don’t want to pick the playoffs for that first setback.

What does the blueprint for a championship run look like?
Produce consistent offense. The White Sox have a very strong overall team, but when they are hitting, especially for power, they become tough to beat. There’s no glaring weak spot from one through nine in that lineup.

But even in this abbreviated 2020 campaign, a team won’t simply hit its way to a World Series title. The White Sox have a strong top-of-the-rotation presence in Giolito and Keuchel, and really can mix and match after that duo. Young hurlers and , as well as younger veteran , will be part of that third- and fourth-starter mix, but ultimately it will be a deep bullpen pushing the White Sox over the top.

Adding and his 100 mph four-seamer completes a group including , , , , and closer . In the five-and-dive world of postseason starters, as catcher Yasmani Grandal recently described, the White Sox have the group to capably fill out the rest of the innings.

What is one reason for concern?
After clinching their first playoff spot since 2008 on Sept. 17, the White Sox went into a 2-8 funk. It wasn’t as if they were playing awful baseball during that stretch, but it was more about not being able to finish off games where they had some sort of control. That problem tends to arise with younger teams, especially a team in its first year of contention after three years of rebuilding. But that final-week adversity might actually benefit the White Sox in the playoffs.

Luis Robert and Yoán Moncada have struggled in September, although Robert knocked out three hits in a season-ending loss to the Cubs and Moncada homered in a Saturday victory. They are integral parts of this high-powered offense who will need to contribute.

Add Eloy Jiménez to that integral list, as well. He missed the Cubs series with a right mid-foot sprain, and the White Sox will know more about his availability Monday. Jiménez’s absence would make for a glaring hole in the lineup.