OAKLAND -- It’s do-or-die time for the A’s. Following Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the White Sox at the Coliseum in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series -- their sixth consecutive postseason loss -- Oakland will need to snap a nine-game losing streak in elimination games to keep its season alive.
The A’s will send Chris Bassitt, their best starter this season, to the mound for the must-win contest. The right-hander is fresh off a dominant final month of the regular season that earned him AL Pitcher of the Month honors, as he went 3-0 with a 0.34 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 26 2/3 innings in September. Meanwhile, the White Sox will look to sweep the series behind veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
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The biggest topic of conversation entering Game 1 was Oakland’s decision to start left-hander Jesús Luzardo despite Chicago’s Major League-best 14-0 record against southpaws during the regular season. Just as the White Sox followed that narrative in Game 1, the A’s will look to do the same in Game 2, as their 11-3 record against lefties was second best in the Majors.
“We have no choice,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We wanted a series. We lost the first game of it. Now, it’s time to respond. We’re going to [need] more offensively. We can’t score one run and think we’re going to win. We have pretty good numbers off left-handed pitching, too. Hopefully, that plays out for us.”
What do the starting lineups look like?
White Sox: Eloy Jiménez was ruled out of Tuesday’s opener after going through pregame running on the field to test his right mid-foot sprain. Adam Engel played right field and switch-hitter Leury García was in left, with Yasmani Grandal at designated hitter and James McCann behind the plate. But that lineup faced a left-handed starter and could be adjusted against Bassitt.
Manager Rick Renteria figures to move Grandal behind the plate, and he could put the left-handed-hitting Nomar Mazara in right field despite Engel hitting a homer on Tuesday. Edwin Encarnación is also available at DH.
• Position-by-position breakdown for each club
“We’ll see how it works out tomorrow,” said Renteria, who sent out three different lineups to his players Monday night with three different Tuesday scenarios. “It will be fluid, but hopefully, we’ll have an easier task putting the lineup together.”
Here's how the White Sox might look without Jiménez:
1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Yoán Moncada, 3B
3. Yasmani Grandal, C
4. José Abreu, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnación/James McCann, DH
6. Luis Robert, CF
7. Adam Engel/Leury García, LF
8. Nomar Mazara, RF
9. Nick Madrigal, 2B
Athletics: The A’s and Keuchel know each other well, going back to their intra-division battles during his days with the Astros. The left-hander is 6-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 22 career games (20 starts) against Oakland. The A’s will likely switch up their lineup to stack more righties at the top.
Here’s how Oakland might look:
1. Marcus Semien, SS
2. Tommy La Stella, 2B
3. Ramón Laureano, CF
4. Mark Canha, LF
5. Matt Olson, 1B
6. Chad Pinder, DH
7. Sean Murphy, C
8. Jake Lamb, 3B
9. Stephen Piscotty, RF
Who are the starting pitchers?
White Sox: Keuchel (6-2, 1.99 ERA) had a tremendous first season with the White Sox, allowing one earned run over 20 innings to close things out in September. He missed time in the final month due to back spasms, but he worked his way up to 93 pitches in his last start at Cleveland on Sept. 24. Keuchel will face Oakland with one extra day of rest.
“With this team, I’m finally back to who I want to be,” Keuchel said. “The last couple of years, I dealt with numerous nagging injuries [and] haven’t really found my rhythm.
“I’ve been fortunate to make pitches when I need to and, at the end of the season, have a good amount of stats and good peripherals. But this year, I felt like I had turned a corner back to where I wanted to be.”
Athletics: Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA) transformed from a pitcher who only made the starting rotation on Opening Day due to others’ injuries into Oakland’s ace. The right-hander turned in scoreless efforts in three of his final four regular-season starts.
“He’s pitched great all year,” Melvin said. “Game 2 is a very important game, regardless. We need to win, and we feel our best shot is with him, given the way he’s pitched recently and over the course of the season.”
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
White Sox: Renteria got a little bit of grief on social media for allowing Giolito to stay in the game in the eighth after he walked Mark Canha on four pitches, which drew Renteria from the dugout for a mound visit. But right-handed setup man Evan Marshall, left-handed setup man Aaron Bummer and closer Alex Colomé combined to throw 20 pitches, so they will be available Wednesday. Renteria will rely on that trio once again in high-leverage, late-game situations.
Athletics: In a perfect scenario, the A’s would get five or six quality innings from Bassitt before handing it off to a dominant bullpen that finished the regular season with the best ERA in the Majors. Closer Liam Hendriks, who is capable of going multiple innings, looms in the back end, with the bridge to the right-hander established by left-hander Jake Diekman and veteran righty Joakim Soria. Yusmeiro Petit is Melvin’s go-to option to get out of tough jams with runners in scoring position, no matter what inning the game is in.
The A’s also own a full assortment of their starting pitchers available for relief, including Opening Day starter Frankie Montas and recently acquired starter Mike Minor. Montas is particularly intriguing, as his blazing fastball, which sits around 97-98 mph, could play up coming out of the bullpen.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
White Sox: With the potential of four days off before the AL Division Series, everyone will be available for the White Sox with the chance to sweep this best-of-three series.
Athletics: J.B. Wendelken tossed 2 2/3 shutout innings in Game 1 and will likely be unavailable for Game 2.
Any injuries of note?
White Sox: Even without Jiménez, the White Sox knocked out three home runs in Tuesday’s victory. But they would prefer to have a somewhat healthy Jiménez somewhere in the lineup on Wednesday, even as the designated hitter.
Athletics: Star third baseman Matt Chapman was lost for the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this month. It was a tough blow, but the A’s have recovered with solid production at the hot corner from Lamb, whom the club picked up after he was designated for assignment by the D-backs.
Who is hot and who is not?
White Sox: Tim Anderson finished the season in a 6-for-46 slump over the last 11 regular-season games. But with three hits on Tuesday, Anderson proved that when he goes, the offense goes.
“Being able to set a table in all aspects and being able to be dominant in the game, it definitely gives the guys a lot of energy to continue to keep going,” Anderson said. “Today was one of those days -- started off with a hit and the rest came behind me as well.”
José Abreu has been quite possibly the most consistent hitter in baseball during this abbreviated 2020 season. He had two hits Tuesday, including his first career postseason home run.
Athletics: Tommy La Stella has a case as baseball’s top midseason acquisition. After arriving from the Angels via trade on Aug. 28, La Stella solidified his spot at second base for the A’s by hitting .289 (28-for-97) with 16 runs, six doubles, two triples, a home run and 11 RBIs over 27 games. With the lowest strikeout rate in baseball by a large margin, La Stella is a spark plug at the top of the lineup, and he had the best at-bats of any A’s player in Game 1, in which he went 1-for-4 with a single.
Murphy usually stands out for his cannon of an arm behind the plate, but he enters the postseason as one of Oakland’s top hitters. The rookie catcher finished the regular season hitting .277 with five home runs, two doubles and nine RBIs over his last 16 games.
Laureano finished the regular season 4-for-29 over his last nine games. His offensive numbers really took a hit upon returning from his four-game suspension, which was served Aug. 14-17 following his actions that led to a benches-clearing scuffle between the A’s and Astros.
Anything else fans want to know?
White Sox: Have not won a playoff series since sweeping Houston to win the 2005 World Series title. Tuesday’s victory was their second playoff win since 2005.
A’s: Have not won a win-or-go-home game since Game 7 of the 1973 World Series against the Mets.
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.