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MLB Playoffs: The White Sox Face Oakland in Wild Card Round, Both Teams Trying to Flip the Script

The White Sox shouldn’t be here. The Athletics have been here before. Which team changes their destiny in the first round of the playoffs?

Cellular Field by Geoff Livingston is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

MLB Playoffs: The White Sox Face Oakland in Wild Card Round, Both Teams Trying to Flip the Script

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us.  As baseball finally moves into it’s Bubble phase, 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s World Series champion.  While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.

The MLB is a fickle beast.  Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next.  With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump. 

We’re looking at each MLB playoff series and diving into what’s at stake for each team, how they stack up, and the keys to victory for each squad.

So, let’s check-in ahead of the Wild Card series between the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics.

The White Sox were supposed to be good this year, but not THIS GOOD. By rebuilding through the draft, and absolutely fleecing teams like the Red Sox and Nationals in deals for prospects, the White Sox were looking towards the future of the ballclub.

That future came early in 2020, as the brakes fell off this runaway train of a roster. The White Sox are too good in 2020, and it bears repeating that this team was supposed to be a few seasons away from success, especially in a solid AL Central.

Oakland, on the other hand, is looking to chase some postseason demons in 2020. The Athletics have failed to get through the Wild Card game in their last three postseason trips, all of which ended in the sudden death Wild Card game. Perhaps a Wild Card round can prove more fruitful for Oakland?

White Sox Keys to Victory: Do That Thing You Do

The White Sox are a very good baseball team, and they’ll only get better with time. Franchise All-Star José Abreu is having a stellar season that might land him AL MVP honors. Tim Anderson is once again proving his place in the “Best AL Shortstop” conversation. Even offseason acquisition Dallas Keuchel is having a Southside renaissance in 2020, posting a 1.99 ERA, a 1.089 WHIP, and an ERA+ over 200.

But these veterans only make up half of the story. It’s the young guns of this Chicago team that really push the envelope.

The White Sox built a solid core for the future over the last few years, and now they are seeing the benefits tenfold. Eloy Jimenez‘s sophomore season is far better than his first. Nick Madrigal is hitting better than he hit in his minor league career.

The main offensive story for the White Sox was the explosive introduction of Luis Robert. Despite cooling off in September, Robert’s 2020 was monstrous. In August, the Cuban centerfielder hit just below .300, and posted an OPS of 1.015, parking 9 home runs and driving in 20 RBIs.

On the bump, the White Sox had their first no-hitter since Phil Humber’s perfect game, when Lucas Giolito blanked the Pirates. Dylan Cease has shown flashes of brilliance. Reynaldo Lopez began the season injured and has continued his rollercoaster performances, but when locked in, the guy can be lights out.

Pitchers like Dane DunningCodi Heuer, and Matt Foster are showing up for the White Sox. Also a fun fact for the rest of the AL Central: every pitcher mentioned in the last two paragraphs is 26 or younger.

If the White Sox can keep all those same guys firing on all cylinders, they’ll hit the ALDS.

Oakland Athletics Keys to Victory: Channel the A’s from August

Oakland jumped out to a big lead in the AL West and never gave an inch, not that another AL West team would threaten them.

The Athletics were on fire in August, starting the month off with a nine-game winning streak that included sweeps of Texas and Houston. They weren’t easy wins either, as seven of their wins have been by one or two runs.

The A’s also boasted a team ERA of 3.47, good enough for second in the American League to only the Cleveland Indians at the time. Their bullpen ERA was even better, at 2.25, which tops in the AL.

In the recent past, the A’s have slipped. In their final 10 games, Oakland posted a 5-5 record, limping into the postseason after splitting a 4-game series against the already eliminated Seattle Mariners.

If the Athletics want to change the script and get to the ALDS for the first time since 2013, they’ll need to find themselves again. If they can’t, it’s only a matter of time before they get bounced in the Wild Card for the fourth time.

Final Call: Chicago in 3

As much as I would like to say that the Atheltics can pull this off, it just doesn’t seem likely. How can a team that just split a series with the Mariners be the favorites in a playoff series?

The White Sox, on the other hand, just have too much intangibles at play. They are the true embodiment of an AL Wild Card shocker, and that’s something the A’s have historically had issues with.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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