For the first time since 2013, the A’s have won the AL West, and will enter the 2020 expanded playoff field as the No. 2 seed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the season to 60 games, the 2020 MLB playoffs will feature eight teams from each league.
In the wild-card round, the A’s will face the No. 7 seed Chicago White Sox, who feature a high-powered offense led by AL MVP candidate Jose Abreu. All three games will be hosted by the A’s in Oakland, with Game 1 set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT.
So, how far do the experts see the A’s advancing in this year’s expanded postseason?
Our trio of panelists at NBC Sports Bay Area see Oakland’s path shaking out like this:
Alex Pavlovic: Advance to ALCS, lose to Tampa Bay Rays
Jessica Kleinschmidt: Advance to ALDS, lose to Minnesota Twins
Dalton Johnson: Lose to White Sox in Wild Card Series
Nineteen of the 30 baseball pundits polled at ESPN predict the A’s will defeat the White Sox -- the closest margin among any of the four AL wild-card matchups. If the A’s win that series at the Coliseum, they’d advance to the playoff bubble, which for the AL would be hosted in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Eight out of the 30 pundits believe the A’s can advance to the ALCS, winning an ALDS series that either would come against the Minnesota Twins or the Houston Astros.
Just one of the 30 people ESPN polled has the A’s advancing all the way to the World Series, which will be held at Globe Life Field, the brand-new home of the Texas Rangers. That same writer, Sam Miller, does have the A’s coming home with the trophy, arguing a robust pitching staff will be the difference for Oakland in the Fall Classic.
"Sixty games shouldn't cause us to throw aside everything-or even much-of what we know about these players," Miller writes. "So while the A's rotation is filled with bloated 2020 ERAs, I'm holding on to what I knew about Sean Manaea, Mike Minor, Frankie Montas and Jesus Luzardo two months ago: They're really good.
"In a crammed postseason, with few days off, Oakland's pitching depth really stands out, with at least five starters capable of shutting down a top-tier offense and at least seven relievers comfortable in high-leverage innings."
It all begins Tuesday in Oakland, with Jesus Luzardo taking the mound against Lucas Giolito in Game 1.