Yankees Look to Downgrade A’s in AL Wild Card Contest

In the storied histories of the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics, the two teams have only met in the playoffs three times, all won by the Yankees. However, the two teams have never faced one another in a winner-take-all wild card format – that is until tonight when the A’s travel to New York.

Two Well Deserving Entrants

This is a battle of two teams that have combined to win 197 games. The Yankees finished in second in the AL East, going 100-62. The Athletics finished 97-65, second to the World Champion Houston Astros. Oakland is 47-34 on the road this season while the Yankees are 53-28, the second best home record in the American League behind only the Boston Red Sox.

These two teams are comparable in more than just victories. Oakland is averaging 5.02 runs per game while the Yankees are averaging 5.25. New York has given up on average 4.13 runs per contest while Oakland has allowed 4.16 runs per game. The Yankees were 16th in batting average at .249, the Athletics 13th at .252. New York was first in home runs with 267 while Oakland was third with 227.

Defensively these two teams are evenly matched as well. Oakland finished the 2018 season with a .985 feeling percentage while the Yankees had a .984 average. The Yankees committed 94 errors while the Athletics committed 89.

The pitching staffs for these two teams are both outstanding. The Yankees had the 10th best ERA in baseball at 3.78, with Oakland close behind at 3.81. New York had the 14th best ERA among starting pitchers at 4.05, while Oakland was 17th at 4.17. The Oakland bullpen had the third best ERA in baseball at 3.37, while the Yankees had the fourth best at 3.38.

Pitching Is the Key to This Game

It will be the performance of the two pitching staffs in this contest that is going to be the difference maker. New York sends right-hander Luis Severino to the hill, who went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA, striking out 220 in 191.1 innings pitched this season. The right-hander is the ace of the Yankee staff and was en fuego to begin the year, but he has worn down after the All-Star break, posting a 5-6 record with a 5.57 ERA in 12 starts.

Meanwhile, the Athletics are opting to go with right-hander Liam Hendriks. Hendriks has made eight starts for the A’s this season, but he has not gone more than 1.2 innings in any start. The right-hander’s job is to just get the game going, keep the opposing team off the scoreboard in the first and then allow Oakland manager Bob Melvin to use his talented bullpen to create the perfect matchup during the game.

This strategy has had a great deal of success. In the last seven starts by Hendriks, the A’s are 5-2.

An Evenly Matched Affair

These two teams split the season series, 3-3, and it looks like virtually everything about them is fairly evenly matched. The one big difference is going to be that starting pitching matchup. Can Severino regain his early-season form and shutdown the potent Oakland lineup? Will the strategy of Melvin work to contain the 2018 version of the Bronx Bombers?

The truth is that Severino is going to be the key. In his last start against Oakland he was absolutely roasted, giving up six hits and five earned runs in 2.2 innings. That was 29 days ago, but the right-hander has looked significantly better since then, allowing just four earned runs in his last 17.2 innings pitched. It is for that reason that it makes sense to put one’s trust in the Yankees. Take New York to win, 4-1.

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