Athletics

Athletics

The A's and Yankees split their six regular-season meetings, with each team winning two of three at home. Both squads look a bit different now, but we still can use those regular-season games to identify three keys for the A's to win Wednesday's American League Wild Card Game and advance to the ALDS.

Here they are ...

Score early

The team that scored first went on to win four of the six games in the regular season. The team leading after five innings was even better, going 4-1, with one game tied after five.

Taking an early lead will be even more critical Wednesday night because of the stage and atmosphere. Yankee Stadium undoubtedly will be electric from the start, and if the Bronx Bombers' bats get going early, it will be tough to overcome. On the other hand, an A's outburst in the early innings would go a long way toward silencing the crowd and adding a great deal of pressure to the Yankees.

The other major reason why scoring early will be so important is the strength and depth of each team's bullpen. Oakland's 'pen ranked third in baseball with a 3.37 ERA during the regular season, and New York was fourth at 3.38.

Coming back late could be next to impossible against the quality arms that both sides can run out to the mound.

Win the home run battle

The side that hit more home runs in the teams' regular-season matchups went 3-1, with two games featuring even homer totals. The long ball becomes an even bigger factor at Yankee Stadium -- a ballpark known for its short porches in both left and right field.

 

Both the A's and Yankees have relied on the home run all season long. New York set an MLB record with 267 homers during the regular season, including 144 at home. The A's tied the American League record with 136 road round-trippers and finished third in baseball with 227 total long balls.

With each team likely going to the bullpen early, stringing rallies together could prove extremely difficult. A large percentage of the game's runs likely will come via home run.

Limit Hicks and Stanton

While the entire Yankees lineup is dangerous, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton accounted for the biggest difference between wins and losses during the six regular-season meetings.

In the Yankees' three victories, Hicks and Stanton combined to hit .320 (8-for-25) with two home runs and eight RBI. In the A's three wins, the two combined to hit just .150 (3-for-20) with no homers and only a single RBI.

Of course, shutting down the Yankees' No. 3 and 4 hitters is easier said than done. Both recently have been swinging hot bats, with Stanton belting three home runs in his last three starts, and Hicks launching three in his last five.

So, A's pitchers will have to find a way to limit their damage.

Watch A’s playoff coverage Wednesday on NBC Sports Bay Area/California
4:30 p.m.:
A’s Pre-Game Show on NBC Sports California
8 p.m.: A’s Post-Game Show on NBC Sports California
10 p.m.: The Happy Hour on NBC Sports Bay Area