The A's run through the MLB playoffs officially begins with one of baseball's youngest, most exciting teams.
Oakland (36-24), the No. 2 seed in the American League, will play the Chicago White Sox (35-25), the No. 7 seed, in a best-of-three AL Wild Card Series beginning Tuesday at the Oakland Coliseum. The A's beat the Seattle Mariners 6-2 in the regular-season finale on Sunday, while the White Sox lost 10-8 to the Chicago Cubs to set up the playoff matchup.
The A's and White Sox didn't play each other during the regular season, as MLB limited games within a team's division and against opponents in the corresponding division in the opposite league due to the coronavirus pandemic. All three games will be played at the A's ballpark due to those same restrictions, and the winner of the series will advance to the ALDS at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Oakland has not won a playoff series of any kind since winning the ALDS in 2006. In each of the last two years, the A's lost in the single-elimination AL Wild Card Game.
The A's don't have to worry about this year thanks to the expanded playoff format, and wouldn't have under the old rules after winning the AL West for the first time since 2013. They, do, however have to worry about beating the White Sox.
Chicago tied with the New York Yankees for the AL lead in homers (94) entering Sunday, narrowly pacing the Junior Circuit in slugging percentage (.453) ahead of the last day of the season. Shortstop Tim Anderson and first baseman Jose Abreu each have strong AL MVP cases, while Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel are a strong one-two punch in the White Sox rotation.
The A's offense has been somewhat dormant compared to recent seasons, but Oakland's pitching has been among the best in the majors. The bullpen has the seventh-best ERA (3.89), and the starters have the eighth-best mark (4.02).
While the A's won't have star third baseman Matt Chapman (season-ending hip labrum surgery) in the fold, they will nonetheless feel a sense of urgency with this playoff run. Shortstop Marcus Semien, an MVP finalist a season ago, can become a free agent this offseason, while Chapman, first baseman Matt Olson, second baseman Tony Kemp and pitchers Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas have no more than three years of arbitration remaining. Considering Oakland's self-imposed budgetary restrictions, this might be one of the last chances this group has to win something together.
In case the A's needed any more incentive, there's one more thing. The winner of the A's-White Sox series could face the Houston Astros in the ALDS if the reigning pennant winners beat the Minnesota Twins.