2020 ALDS Preview: Astros V. Athletics

This might be the best series of the postseason.

What we have here are two teams who seem to be going in opposite directions. The Oakland Athletics just won their first series since John Quincy Adams was president. No. Wait. It was some father-son tandem. Bob Boone and Aaron Boone? No. It’ll come to me. In the meantime, this year’s Houston Astros lost two starters: Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. One due to injury. One due to a desire to make a salary equivalent to the gross national product of Peru. Houston was also effected mightily by the inability to see video during the game, part of the Major League Baseball penalty enforced on all teams because of Houston’s cheating. The ‘Stros hit .240 this year, which was still better than the A’s .225.

That means everybody on both sides has a real chance to be a hero because it’s likely there’s going to be a lot of struggling hitters. A’s first baseman Matt Olson? Time to step up since third baseman Matt Chapman is out. Outfielder Khris Davis hit .400 in the wild card series. If he can stay hot, he can carry the team.

It’s either George Springer time… or not. He went 4-for-12 in the wild card. Does that mean he’s ready for a slump? Entirely possible. Four times he’s hit better than .379 in a series. Three times he’s hit worse than .160. Jose Altuve‘s numbers are way down. He hit .100 in the wild card. Carlos Correa shot off his mouth after their playoff series win. Good time to do it. Nobody can get near them to ask a follow-up question.

Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers are almost twins. McCullers had a bad first outing this playoff season. Is Greinke due? Jose Urquidy (2.71 ERA) continued to show he’s a number-one starter with one run in four innings in the wild card and the help of four relievers who posted goose eggs.

Pitching-wise the two are remarkably similar. In the last month, they’re so close in baserunners allowed, strikeouts, walks and ERA there’s no discernible difference.

Oakland improved by picking up Tommy La Stella to give them someone who doesn’t strike out and can get on base, Oakland averaged about a half a walk more per game during the regular season but also averaged almost a strikeout more per game. The great thing about the A’s fairly awful offense this year is that they won’t be unduly affected if they struggle in the series. Just another day at the office. Stephen Piscotty and Mark Canha had a hit every four times runners were on.

And many of them broke out in the series against the White Sox, so the cloud that may have been hanging over some of their heads has been lifted.

On the mound, Chris Bassitt pitched well against Chicago, while the bullpen did not. If that trend continues, this will be a short series if the Astros can feast on the relievers. Jake Diekman and JB Wendelken will have to keep the door closed.

Final thought: it’s really hard to trust a team in the Athletics that couldn’t hit water if it fell out of a boat, but the Astros just aren’t what they were.

Without an obvious someone to dominate the pitching, the pick is the Athletics.

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