OAKLAND, Calif. — Marcus Semien and the Oakland Athletics are finally getting a full playoff series.
After consecutive losses in the wild-card game, the AL West champions hope a longer series boosts their chances for a deep postseason run.
"It’s a little different than last year for us and also in ’18 where it’s just one game and you want to be so perfect and win that game,” Semien said. “It’s a three-game series, we’re at home and play good baseball.”
Oakland gets its shot against the Chicago White Sox in the best-of-three wild-card round having advanced just once during 11 previous playoff trips since 2000, when they reached the 2006 AL Championship Series before being swept by Detroit.
Both clubs navigated a challenging 60-game regular season, bolstered often by their top sluggers. The A's finished 36-24, Chicago at 35-25.
Oakland will send 22-year-old lefty Jesús Luzardo out to start Game 1 on Tuesday.
“To be able to do it at a young age is a blessing,” said Luzardo, whose season was briefly delayed by a positive test result for the coronavirus despite never having symptoms. “I hope this is just the first of many.”
Right-hander Lucas Gioloto (4-3), who pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates on Aug. 25, takes the mound for Chicago.
Here are some things to watch for in the best-of-three round at the Coliseum:
Abreu's big bat
Jose Abreu hit 19 homers — second in baseball — and led baseball with 60 RBIs while playing in all 60 games.
Matt Olson led the A's with 14 homers.
“I think a lot of the teams feel they're just getting going,” Semien said.
Semien and right-hander Chris Bassitt, Oakland's Game 2 starter, both were drafted by the White Sox and came to Oakland in the same December 2014 trade.
The connection might mean a little more if they had played with Chicago recently, but “that was so long ago,” Semien said. He has certainly paid attention to the White Sox from afar.
“They’re going for it this year,” Semien said. “I know a lot of those guys over there, primarily the same coaching staff besides the manager. It's going to be a battle. It's nice to be at home. I think we played them well at home in the past. Even though there's no crowd I just feel like it's a tough place for an opponent to come into.”
Luzardo (3-2) has the opportunity to help Oakland get over a big hurdle: advancing. The A's want to show the baseball world they have the talent to go further — much further.
Sean Manaea, an Andrean graduate, returned last September to go 4-0 and earn the wild-card start over Mike Fiers before faltering. Liam Hendriks lost it the previous year at Yankee Stadium.
Luzardo struck out four in three innings of relief in the 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay in last year's AL wild-card game.
“I think getting my feet wet in postseason baseball last year really will help me a lot throughout this year and moving forward in my career,” he said. “I’m glad that they trusted me and gave me the confidence to go out there and throw three innings last year.”
The A's are missing a key part of their infield without Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman, sidelined by a season-ending hip injury that required surgery. He hit 10 homers and drove in 25 runs.
Midseason additions Tommy La Stella and Jake Lamb have filled key voids.
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