The Houston Astros made relatively quick work of the Minnesota Twins to advance to the AL Division Series. The A's, meanwhile, took a less-preferred route against the Chicago White Sox.
They dropped the first game of their AL Wild Card Series and trailed 3-0 on the scoreboard in the winner-take-all Game 3. But working their way back from those deficits could pay tangible dividends for the A's with any future adversities they face.
“In the past, it’s been one elimination game. We turned it into two elimination games,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin told NBC Sports California. “We benefit by it down the road. You certainly don’t want to go through it at the time. But there’s no way you can’t be better for it.”
The A's now face the Astros, who had a losing record in the regular season. Oakland won seven of the 10 games between the two teams, who have a distinct familiarity with one another. That cuts down on required internal meetings, and also eliminates the need for a collective pep talk.
“You don’t want to overplay it,” Melvin said. “And I certainly didn’t have [a team meeting] before the last game against Chicago. I don’t think there’s a message I could send right now that would be a ‘Knute Rockne’, everybody knows what we’re playing for here.”
The A's, for the most part, are the same group that lost Wild Card games in 2018 and 2019. But there are some different flavors to the current squad.
“Tommy La Stella has ended up being a big personality,” Melvin explained. “Let alone a big player for us and a different type of player than maybe we have here too. He’s settled in here nicely, and his personality has come out.”
While Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea will get the start for the A's in Games 1 and 2, respectively, bullpen management in a five-game series with no off-days could be the biggest challenge for both dugouts.
“Maybe you have to be patient at times, even though every one of these games feels like the last of the year,” Melvin said. “I do think we have six starters, that maybe is an advantage. Six guys that we can rely on, maybe even [one] in the bullpen.”
One player that will miss the ALDS, but remains present in spirit is Matt Chapman, who underwent hip surgery in September.
He has been a frequent texter with Melvin.
“It’s daily. It’s always right before the game too.” Melvin added. “He’s into it, we all feel him here too. We don’t want to distance ourselves from him. Even though he’s not here, such an important personality for us. The last thing I do, before I go out to the dugout is contact him.”