The New York Yankees will host the Oakland Athletics in the AL Wildcard game Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. Oakland will send right-hander Liam Hendriks to the mound as the opener, while New York will oppose with right-hander Luis Severino. Each team won three games in the 2018 season series.
The Athletics were 34-36 (.486) at the conclusion of play on June 15, and 11 games out in the Wildcard race. Yet from that point on they went 63-29 (.685) and ended up seven games ahead of the third place team in the Wildcard race (the Rays).
The keys to their success? The bullpen — like the Rays, Athletics manager Bob Melvin utilized the opener/long reliever model to great effect — and a high slugging powered offense. Oakland ranked second in the big leagues in doubles (322) and extra-base hits (569), third in home runs (227), fourth in runs (813) and slugging (.439), and fifth in OPS (.764).
True, the Yankees have scored more runs and hit more homers than the Athletics, yet they are a single faceted team in a sense because they depend heavily on the home run. Because of it, they can be pitched to and tend to strike out a lot. Expect Melvin to lean on groundball hurlers that can keep the ball in the park.
Oakland has averaged 5.02 runs per game this season, ranking fourth in all of baseball, while the pitching staff features a 3.81 team ERA, good for 11th in the Majors.
New York’s powerful lineup averaged 5.25 runs per game this season, ranking second in the big leagues. However, the Yankees have underperformed the Athletics in the second half of the season.
Liam Hendriks served as an opener in eight of his 25 regular-season appearances, logging a 2.08 ERA and 2.33 K/BB across 8-2/3 innings in those outings. Hendricks has worked to a 0.00 ERA/2.06 FIP/0.190 OBA/.250 BABIP/0.79 FIP over the last 14 days, with a 56.3 GB% and a 37.5% FB%. He has not given up a homer over that stretch (6-1/3 innings overall). Hendriks is 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA in career nine appearances (two starts) against the Yankees. Key Matchups: Greg Bird (1-2, 2B), Brett Gardner (1-2), Didi Gregorious (1-2), Andrew McCutchen (2-5, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI), Giancarlo Stanton (1-2)
Oakland will use its bullpen for the entire game. After Hendriks, the Athletics could turn to either Mike Fiers or Trevor Cahill in a long relief role. Fiers had been solid across 30 starts this season, performing to a 3.56 ERA, while Cahill registered a 3.76 ERA across 110 innings of work. The A’s bullpen ranked third in the big leagues with a terrific 3.37 ERA on the season.
Luis Severino had some rough patches this season yet still finished the season with a 3.39 ERA, backed up by excellent strikeout (28.2%) and walk (5.9%) rates. He finished the season strong, allowing just four runs in 17-2/3 innings over his final three starts. He’ll look to shake the memory of his performance in last season’s AL Wildcard game against Minnesota when he allowed three runs while getting just one single out. Severino is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in four career starts against the Athletics. Key Matchups: Matt Joyce (1-4, 2 BB), Ramon Laureano (1-2, 2B), Jed Lowrie (6-11, 3 RBI), Jonathan Lucroy (1-2), Chad Pinder (1-4, RBI), Stephen Piscotty (1-2, 2 RBI)
— Congratulations to Colorado for a big, extra-inning NL Wildcard win on Wednesday. The Rockies will move on to yet another area code (but same time zone) where they’ll face the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 3, 2018