OAKLAND -- The A’s escaped with a 5-3 win over the White Sox on Wednesday at the Coliseum, setting up a win-or-go home Game 3 of the American League Wild Card Series for Thursday.
The White Sox tabbed Dane Dunning for Game 3, while the A's picked Mike Fiers. It makes sense both are right-handers: The White Sox are 15-0 vs. lefties and the A’s are 12-3 after each defeated a left-handed starter in the first two games of this best-of-three series.
• AL Wild Card Series presented by Hankook Tire, G3: 3 ET/2 CT/noon PT on ESPN
The A’s feel like they have their mojo back on offense after breaking out with seven hits in Game 2, including homers from Marcus Semien and Khris Davis that contributed to a short outing from Chicago starter Dallas Keuchel. Meanwhile, A’s starter Chris Bassitt dominated with seven-plus innings of one-run ball. But as the White Sox showed on Wednesday by trimming what was once a 5-0 A’s lead to 5-3 with a late rally and loading the bases in the ninth against Oakland’s strong bullpen, they’ll never feel out of a contest no matter the situation.
“The playoffs are wacky, like I said, for a reason,” Keuchel said. “You got stuff that doesn’t happen in the regular season happening in the course of a game. Through the short playoff experience that this franchise has had, Game 3 is actually, it’s probably the most high-leverage that the White Sox have ever played.
“Baseball is weird with this three-game set to start off, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the highest-leverage game we’ve ever played just because this would be the first-win-or-go-home game for the White Sox.”
What do the starting lineups look like?
White Sox: Nomar Mazara didn’t start Wednesday but knocked out a pinch-hit single and then was called out on strikes on a borderline 3-2 pitch from Liam Hendriks in the eighth. With a right-hander on the mound for the A’s, Mazara could get the call over Leury García.
• Position-by-position breakdown for each club
James McCann might end up catching with Grandal starting at designated hitter. But the question still lingers on the health of Eloy Jiménez. If he is physically ready, look for Jiménez at DH and Grandal behind the plate.
1) Tim Anderson, SS
2) Yoán Moncada, 3B
3) Yasmani Grandal, C
4) José Abreu, 1B
5) James McCann, DH
6) Luis Robert, CF
7) Nomar Mazara, RF
8) Adam Engel, LF
9) Nick Madrigal, 2B
A’s: Here’s what the Game 1 lineup looked like against right-hander Lucas Giolito:
1) Tommy La Stella, 2B
2) Robbie Grossman, LF
3) Marcus Semien, SS
4) Matt Olson, 1B
5) Mark Canha, RF
6) Jake Lamb, 3B
7) Ramón Laureano, CF
8) Chad Pinder, DH
9) Sean Murphy, C
Who are the starting pitchers?
White Sox: Dunning went 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA in 7 starts, none of which were against Oakland.
“If we go Dane Dunning, I have the utmost confidence in him, just based on how he's performed in this short season," Keuchel said before the team announced its starter. We're going to rest easy tonight, and we're going to wake up with some confidence [Thursday] for Game 3.”
A’s: Fiers and Frankie Montas are the only two right-handed starters available, though Montas last pitched on Sunday and would have had to pitch on three days’ rest. Fiers, 6-3 with a 4.58 ERA in 11 starts in 2020, hasn't faced the White Sox this season. Regardless, the A’s will be ready to call upon anyone in their bullpen at the first sign of trouble by their starter for Thursday’s must-win game.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
White Sox: Key figures such as Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Jace Fry, Foster, Crochet and Cease will all be ready basically from the open. Carlos Rodón is also in the mix. Basically anyone but Keuchel and Lucas Giolito should be ready to go to get the game from the first pitch to closer Alex Colomé. Everyone is fairly well rested but Jimmy Cordero, who threw 35 pitches over 2 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday.
A’s: Bassitt’s long outing allows for a well-rested bullpen heading into Game 3. Ideally, the A’s get five or six quality innings from Fiers and hand it off to the bullpen to form a bridge to closer Liam Hendriks. Yusmeiro Petit and J.B. Wendelken are around in the middle innings as Oakland’s go-to relievers for tight jams, while Joakim Soria and Jake Diekman usually handle the seventh and eighth in any order.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
White Sox: Cordero would be the only one of question after his extended outing Wednesday, but he will be there if needed.
A’s: It’s all hands on deck for Oakland. Even Hendriks -- who threw 49 pitches on Wednesday -- is expected to be available for at least one inning.
Any injuries of note?
White Sox: Jiménez has missed the first two games of the Wild Card Series and the past five games total with a right mid-foot sprain. Renteria said Jiménez was feeling about the same prior to Wednesday’s contest but wasn’t even running well enough to serve as DH at that point. He would certainly be a boost to the lineup in the five spot.
A’s: Aside from Matt Chapman, who is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this month, the A’s are at full strength in terms of personnel. Stephen Piscotty had been dealing with a right knee issue toward the end of the regular season, though he started in right field on Wednesday and played all nine innings without limitation.
Who is hot and who is not?
White Sox: Anderson’s slump over the final 11 regular season games certainly didn’t carry over to the postseason. He became the fourth White Sox player with consecutive three-hit games in the postseason, joining Tim Raines (1993 AL Championship Series Games 3-4), Nellie Fox (1959 World Series Games 3-4) and Frank Isbell (1906 World Series Games 5-6). Grandal has homered in both Wild Card games and in three consecutive postseason games dating back to the 2019 National League Wild Card Game. Moncada does not have a postseason hit but has walked once.
A’s: 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. Laureano began to show signs of a resurgence in Game 2, though, going 2-for-4 and scoring a run.
Anything else fans want to know?
White Sox: This is the first win-or-go-home deciding playoff game for the White Sox. They faced the Twins in a 2008 AL Central play-in game, but that contest was considered regular season.
A’s: The A’s snapped their postseason losing streak at six games, which matched a franchise record, with Wednesday’s win.
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.