MLB Postseason Preview: Chicago White Sox vs. Oakland Athleticsby Nicolette Rojo September 29, 2020 0 comments
The Oakland Athletics will host the Chicago White Sox in a best-of-three series at the RingCentral Coliseum, beginning at 12 p.m. PT this afternoon.
After struggling in July, the A’s went on a nine-game winning streak. They finished 36-24 for a comfortable first-place finish in the American League West. As for the White Sox, Chicago was in pursuit of the AL Central title, trailing the Minnesota Twins by one game. However, after losing to the Chicago Cubs, the White Sox fell to the No. 7 seed. Chicago finished with a 35-25 record and third in the AL Central. Both teams finished the season on losing streaks and will look to bounce back.
Three keys to victory for the Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are a top-five scoring team and ranked sixth in team batting average at .263. However, there stands an issue within this team: lack of disciplined hitting. In the postseason, you cannot afford to strike out a lot, especially when playing against a talented A’s bullpen. Chicago has the 24th highest strikeout rate in Major League Baseball and is next to last in chase rate. First baseman Jose Abreu is a top candidate for AL MVP, finishing first in the league in RBIs (60), hits (76), and fifth in OPS (.987). Shortstop Tim Anderson also has to continue his MVP-caliber season for the White Sox to excel.
Continuous Stellar Pitching
The duo of Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito has been phenomenal in Chicago. Keuchel finished with a 1.99 ERA, the second-lowest in the league. Giolito finished the season with 97 strikeouts, second in the AL. He also threw his first career no-hitter on Aug. 25 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out 13 batters. If Game 3 is necessary, look for the White Sox to go with Dane Dunning or Dylan Cease The A’s have been struggling offensively, so Chicago has to capitalize in the early innings to allow their offense to hit.
The White Sox’s bullpen struggled early in the season but has picked up halfway through the season. Closer Alex Colome finished with an 0.81 ERA and converted 12 saves in 13 appearances. Rookie Matt Foster had a solid season, finishing with a 2.20 ERA, 31 strikeouts, and only nine walks. Fellow rookie Codi Heuer also had a strong season with a 1.52 ERA, 25 strikeouts, and nine walks. 2020 first-round pick Garrett Crochet has not allowed a run since being called up on Sept. 18. An A’s team without Matt Chapman makes an inexperienced bullpen’s job easier.
Three keys to victory for the Oakland Athletics
Strong Starting Pitching
Oakland’s middle part of the rotation is a question mark but is still solid as a whole. Rookie Jesus Luzardo is scheduled for Game 1. He finished 3-2 with a 4.12 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 12 games, including three shutout innings in relief. Former White Sox pitcher Chris Bassitt is scheduled for Game 2. He finished with a 2.29 ERA, third in the AL, and went 5-2 with 55 strikeouts and 17 walks. The issue is Game 3’s starter (if necessary). The White Sox have dominated left-handed pitching this season (14-0), so the A’s have to be strategic with that final starter, which could include Mike Fiers or Frankie Montas.
Continue to Dominate in the Bullpen
The A’s MVP this series will be their bullpen, regardless of the results. Oakland holds the league’s best bullpen ERA at a sub 2.50, the lowest since 1988. Liam Hendricks is arguably one of the game’s best closers, converting 14 of 15 save opportunities with a 1.78 ERA and 3-1 record. However, one key issue is Oakland’s lack of rest. The short season affected every team, but Oakland’s bullpen relies on some rest, which could be an issue for them. Expect the bullpen to dominate against Chicago.
Jake Lamb‘s Impact
Jake Lamb, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, has done a solid job filling in for Chapman. He hit .267 with 3 HRs and 9 RBIs with the A’s, so his performance is critical for the team’s success against a solid White Sox rotation. Despite the A’s winning the AL West, they struggle to hit the ball as a team. They finished with a .225 team batting average, 14th in the AL. First baseman Matt Olson and shortstop Marcus Semien are reliable, but Lamb is the X-factor on offense with no Chapman.
This will be a competitive series for both teams because of their pitching situations, especially in the bullpen. The Game 1 matchup between Giolito and Luzardo is a big one to keep an eye on because of the rookie’s position. Luzardo has performed well in the season, but the White Sox are also undefeated against left-handers. Keuchel is more experienced, but it is wise to leave him for Game 2 since it is the matchup that determines the team’s fate. Game 3 will likely have Dunning and Montas. Expect Abreu to have a solid series, as this is his first season on a winning roster, and upset the A’s.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox 2, Oakland Athletics 1
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images