The Houston Astros came into the postseason as the worst American League team to qualify for the expanded 2020 postseason. That was music to the ears of every MLB fan who doesn’t don an Astros cap. Watching the Astros fall was the silver lining of 2020.
But in the postseason, the Houston Astros of the last few years returned in full force. And now, they’re one win away from reaching the ALCS for the fourth consecutive year.
It didn’t seem like any of this was likely to happen, not with the teams standing their way. The Athletics were supposed to be the better team, the more stable squad, the deeper roster, the sharper rotation.
That team has yet to show up in Los Angeles, and that’s a problem.
Only two Athletics hitters have multiple hits in this series so far. Khris Davis, who opened the scoring with a home run off Lance McCullers, and Marcus Semien. Both have four hits in the first two games. Those eight hits account for more than half of Oakland’s offensive output. That’s not how you win games.
On the mound, the A’s haven’t fared much better. In both games their starters got roughed up, as Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea both failed to reach five innings of work. Currently, after two games, the Astros are hitting .306 against the Oakland staff, and have cranked six home runs, which ties them for the most in the Divisional Round.
So what do they do? How can Oakland right the ship, and win-out?
After handing the ball to Manaea and Bassitt, two young arms in their organization, the A’s will go even younger for Game 3. Jesus Luzardo has been good this season, but he’s also been inconsistent. If Luzardo can put together a solid outing and quiet the Astros bats, it might turn the momentum their way.
Luzardo’s done that before. In his two starts against the Astros this season, Luzardo gave up 2 earned runs in each, with the A’s winning both games. It’s doable. It just has to happen.
For Game 4, if you can get there, Frankie Montas offers another interesting possibility. Montas posted a 2-1 record against the Astros this season, with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.109 WHIP. Astros hitters weren’t able to do too much, as they were hitting .233 against Montas in those starts.
But it’s still a risk. However, with your backs against the wall, this might be the time to roll the dice if you’re Bob Melvin.
Another thing the A’s need to climb back into this series against the Astros is the ability to hit. So far in this series, the Athletics are hitting at a .226 clip, with a .741 OPS, which is… not great. If the Astros cannot find their way back into the box, they’re done.
Luckily for them, it’s Jose Urquidy who takes the ball for Game 3, as Zack Greinke has been scratched due to an arm issue. Urquidy has postseason experience, posting a 1.26 ERA in his 5 career postseason appearances. But, it’s his work this year against the A’s that needs to be looked at.
In his only game against the A’s, Urquidy pitched six innings of two-hit baseball and LOST thanks to a Matt Olson two-run shot. The A’s hit a combined .100 in that game. So Game 3 could turn into a staring contest between two young arms.
If Oakland can get to Urquidy, they’ll more than likely face Greinke in Game 4, which might make them breathe a sigh of relief. In Greinke’s three starts against Oakland, the Athletics were able to put together solid work at the dish, hitting .268 against the veteran. In 2020, Greinke gave up 28 hits to National League teams over 5 games. Against the A’s, he gave up 18 hits in just 3 starts.
This could be the A’s way back into this series, but that’s quite the mountain to climb. But you cannot complete rule Oakland out.
It’s not completely impossible for the A’s to climb back into this thing. Don’t want to take my word for it? How about this guy?
“I’ve been up 2-0 before,” Astros Manager Dusty Baker said after Game 2. “You’ve got to put them away when you have a chance. If you let them off the mat, these guys know how to win. We’d like to win it tomorrow and not get any drama in Game 4 or 5. We know it’s not done yet.”
It’s not done yet.
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