Supremely talented, relentlessly brash Houston shortstop Carlos Correa stepped in front of a microphone shortly after his Astros advanced through the Wild-Card round, unafraid to play a villain’s role.
“People are mad,” Correa said after sweeping the Twins in Minnesota. “People don’t want to see us here. What are they going to say now?”
Correa’s sort of right. Most people don't want Houston in the ALDS after their sign-stealing scandal, but the A’s certainly do. Why? They’d like to have a say in ending the Astros' season.
They’ll have that opportunity starting Monday in the divisional-round, with a spot earned after beating the Chicago White Sox in a three-game series with Thursday’s 6-4 victory at Oakland Coliseum. It pits A.L. West foes against each other with maximum stakes.
“We both had a path to meet each other and we both won our first series. We don’t take them lightly,” A’s catcher Sean Murphy said. “That’s a really good team. Plus, there’s some history there.”
This isn’t just about intra-divisional squabbles.
It involves Mike Fiers and trash cans, Ramon Laureano and beanballs and brawls started by Astros assistant coaches. It more generally involves the Astros using illicit means to keep the A’s playing second fiddle in the A.L. West. There are more chapters we won’t rehash here, but they all express a simple point. These teams don’t like one another.
That should make for an explosive series, even at a neutral site played without fans. An abundance of talent on both sides should make it dramatic from a purely sporting perspective.
“It will be a fun series,” Murphy said.
Closer Liam Hendriks has previously made it known the A’s want to beat the Astros in the postseason, as he put it on Friday, "as a vindictive kind of thing." He was excited about it again after the prospect was secured. He also knows playing good baseball is the only way to achieve that end, so the A’s can’t let emotion take the wheel. While the Astros’ sign-steal scandal was a while back on the calendar and it has been processed, it hasn’t been erased from the A’s memory or motivation.
“We’re in the middle of it,” Hendriks said. “There’s a little bit of it going on there, that we want to make sure that they know what they’ve done and we can prove it to him and make sure they lost to the top team in the A.L. West. There’s also not being petty and letting our emotions get the best of us by being over the top and vengeful and everything like this.
“We’ve played them a number of times and we have a good record against them. They know that and we know that.”
The A’s were 7-3 against the Astros this season, including a 4-1 record after clubhouse heartbeat, masher and platinum-glover Matt Chapman was lost for the season with a hip injury. The A’s third baseman will be missed regardless, but that and the wild-card round win over Chicago should give the Green and Gold confidence that they can survive and advance against a bitter rival.
“We’re very familiar with them. They’re very familiar with us,” Hendriks said. “it’s going to be about who executes the best. I believe in this team, and we’re going to try and stick it to them as much as we can and prove that we’re the best team in the A.L. West now.”
So, in other words, bring on the Astros.