Did the Oakland Athletics just put themselves on the brink of elimination?
No, the AL Wild Card Series hasn't even started yet, but already White Sox fans are celebrating upon seeing the A's starting pitcher for Game 1 on Tuesday afternoon.
It's nothing against Jesús Luzardo, of course. It's just that he happens to be a lefty. And the White Sox just spent the regular season absolutely crushing left-handed pitching.
They slashed .285/.364/.523 against southpaws. They went 14-0 against left-handed starting pitchers. Tim Anderson alone hit .449 with a 1.509 OPS against lefties.
"Nothing against him, but we have been doing good against lefties," Anderson said with a smile Monday. "I guess they haven't done their homework."
Now, this is not to bash the A's choice of starting pitcher. Their best arm, former White Sox hurler Chris Bassitt, the newly minted AL Pitcher of the Month, will go in Game 2. The 22-year-old Luzardo is as good a choice as they could have made when it came to the other starter for the only two guaranteed postseason games.
And he's indeed better than most of the left-handed pitchers the White Sox faced during the regular season. Five of those 14 wins against lefty starters came against the Kansas City Royals' duo of Danny Duffy and Kris Bubic. Four more came against Detroit Tigers hurlers Matthew Boyd, Tarik Skubal and Tyler Alexander.
Luzardo seems ready for the challenge.
But the White Sox would figure to have some sort of an advantage based solely on which of Luzardo's hands the baseball leaves on its way to the plate. And in a best-of-three series that leaves little margin for error, that could prove a big deal.
The White Sox offense struggled mightily during a nightmarish 1-6 road trip through Ohio and returned home to get blanked in a 10-0 blowout against the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Friday. But then Saturday came, and with it left-handed starter Jon Lester, and the White Sox scored 10 runs. They fell back to Earth on Sunday — until the Cubs put left-handed reliever Brailyn Marquez in the game in the eighth inning and he gave up five runs.
So perhaps the White Sox can avoid sinking back into their offensive slump — and start what they hope will be a lengthy playoff run — with the good fortune of stepping in against a left-hander Tuesday.
"Certainly you cannot deny the success that we've had," manager Rick Renteria said. "There are no slouches in the big leagues in terms of starting pitchers, including left-handed pitchers. We will take nothing for granted. I think our guys will take nothing for granted."