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2018 AL Wild Card: A’s and Yankees Meet for a Battle in the Bronx

In the history of the game of Baseball, there has never been a 100 win team playing to extend their season in a Wild Card game. Until tonight.

New York Yankees by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2018 AL Wild Card: A’s and Yankees Meet for a Battle in the Bronx

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

In the history of Major League Baseball, there have been 102 teams to reach 100 wins in a season. Within those 102 teams, 8 have failed to reach the playoffs completely. This is most likely due to the limited format of past years, where only four teams reach the postseason, two from each league, one from each division (East/West). In the 6 years of one game Wild Card playoff games, there has never been a 100 win team playing to extend their season. Until tonight.

The 100-Win New York Yankees will face off against the 97-Win Oakland Athletics in a one-game playoff to determine who will be the fourth seed in the AL. The winner will also ship up to Boston to play the AL East Champion Red Sox on Friday. Tensions will be high in the Bronx as they attempt to win their 2nd Wild Card Game in the last 4 years.

The Athletics, on the other hand, are hoping to continue their resurgence in the final year of play at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Fueled by youth and a ragtag group of pitchers, the A’s are hoping to rekindle their magic from 2014 and even perhaps, their improbably 2003 run.

Bronx Bombers

The Yankees most notably added slugger and 2017 MVP Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton to their ranks in the offseason during the Derek Jeter Fire Sale in Miami. Stanton, along with the potent bats to Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, and Didi Gregorius, slugged an MLB record 267 Home Runs, breaking the record held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.

The Yankees also boast two American League Rookie of the Year candidates in Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Both of these young players have proven themselves to be bonafide studs, and will likely terrorize the AL East for years to come. 

However, while the Yankees excelled at the plate, it was on the mound when they fell short. The Yankees came into 2018 with the familiar faces of Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, and Luis Severino. Looking to gain some credibility were Domingo German, who was called up. in 2017, and Sonny Gray, the supposed savior of the 2017 season. Gray not only disappointed in pinstripes, but he floundered his way through 2018 as well.

In an offseason that saw the Yankees bats expand, their pitching shrunk and it was becoming their Achilles heel. So Cashman decided to make his move for J.A. Happ. 

Since joining the Yankees, Happ has gone 7-0 with a 2.69 in his 11 starts. Happ’s 1.052 WHIP is the lowest of any New York starter. So it would only make sense that Happ would start the Wild Card game, right? He’s the best pitcher they have, right? RIGHT?

Boone’s Decision

I would argue that is a factual statement, but instead Aaron Boone, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to hand the ball to Luis Severino, who will be one year removed from his 2017 Wild Card outing where he gave up 3 runs off 4 hits, two of which were home runs, and lasted only 0.1 innings against the Minnesota Twins. If it weren’t for the implosion of Ervin Santana and the Yankees bats coming to bail him out, Severino would have been the laughing stock of the town. Instead, Boone’s giving him the ball. 

Sure, Severino owns a 19-8 record, and a 3.39 ERA in 32 starts for the Yankees, but Happ’s still your best foot forward. As we saw in last night’s NL Wild Card Game, you have to throw your best pitcher first. For the Yankees, that’s not Severino.

If the Yankees pitching can hold on, the Yankees bats should be enough to take home the win and head to Fenway. Seriously. This offense is unreal. 

Oakland’s Athletics

Speaking of throwing your best pitcher first, the Oakland A’s are tossing Liam Hendriks in the Wild Card Game. You know, Liam Hendriks… that guy… from the bullpen… you know, that guy.

Should the A’s be tossing Trevor Cahill or Edwin “Suitcase” Jackson? Maybe, but it’s also 100% possible we’ll see them out of the bullpen in the Bronx.

The Athletics are in an interesting position when it comes to their arms, and that’s because all of their starters are out for the season. Remember Andrew Triggs? Out for the season. How about Jharel Cotton? Out for the season. How about Daniel Gossett? Out for the season. Well, hold on, didn’t Sean Manaea throw a no-hitter this year? Why can’t they pitch him? Yes, he did and they can’t because he’s out for the season.

So while the Yankees are throwing their second-best starter, the Athletics are going to be throwing whatever works at the Yankee bats.

The amazing thing is that it’s worked so far for Oakland. The A’s went a remarkable 42-23 in the second half, which is what put them in Wild Card position and even threatened the Houston Astros, who sat atop the AL West. Can it continue to work in the Bronx? There’s only one way to find out.

The Offense isn’t that bad either, tying Cleveland for 3rd in Runs per game, at 5. Guys like Matt Olson, Jed Lowrie, Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, and Khris “Khrush” Davis have taken over the Coliseum and put opposing pitchers on notice. This A’s offense is astoundingly solid. I mean, when Jonathan Lucroy is hitting 8th in your lineup, you know you have some studs on that roster. 

The Result

This Oakland offense is potent, hence why the Yankees should start J.A. Happ, but it’s all going to come down to Hendrik’s and the A’s pitching staff. The Yankees lineup is unlike any other, a mix of power hitters and solid grinders, a nine-player lineup with little to no holes. If Oakland can shut them down they’ll head to the ALDS in Boston. It’s as easy as that. 

While the A’s are handling the Yankee bats, the person who holds the key to this game is Luis Severino, who’ll be pitching for redemption from 2017. If Severino can pitch like his first-half self, the Yankees can control the game. If he’s unable to hold back the Oakland offense, then we’ll more than likely see Happ. The problem is, using two starters drastically changes their ALDS rotation. Using Happ and Severino would mean that Tanaka is in line to face Chris Sale in Game 1 of the ALDS in Boston. Not ideal. At all.

In the end, it’s going to be close. Can the small ball A’s take on the long ball Yankees and steal one in the Bronx? Or will the Yankee bats be too loud for the A’s pitching staff to quiet? It’ll be close, but the Yankees have Wild Card experience. And a chance to topple the Red Sox hopes in 2018 is too great an opportunity to pass up on their way to another ALCS.

Final Score: Yankees 6, Oakland 4.

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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