Chicago White Sox vs. Oakland Athletics
Tuesday, September 29, 2020 – 3:00 p.m. ET at Oakland Coliseum
Expanding the postseason to 16 teams would have given us an unpredictable playoff scenario in a full 162-game season. Doing so in 2020, when the schedule was shortened to include just geographic division play, has given us even more mystery with some teams meeting for the first time.
Seven of the eight 1st-round series pit teams against one another for the first time in 2020, one of those being the Chicago White Sox heading west to take on the Oakland Athletics in a best-of-3 set. ESPN will carry the clash live as Lucas Giolito (4-3, 3.48 ERA) gets the start for Chicago opposite Jesus Luzardo (3-2, 4.12 ERA). Top-rated sportsbooks have installed the White Sox as mild road chalk with 7½ for the total.
Giolito Toes Oakland Rubber For 1st Time
After looking like a real threat to capture their first AL Pennant since 2005 a couple of weeks ago, the White Sox fell off and dropped seven of their last eight games. While the hitters had their share of problems in that stretch, it was the pitchers who really struggled as opponents plated 52 runs in those final eight games. Not surprising, six of those went ‘over’ the totals on MLB odds boards.
Chicago was without a couple of bats and gloves towards the end due to minor injuries. Both Eloy Jimenez (foot) and Yasmani Grandal (hand) should be in the lineup for Wednesday’s opener. Of bigger concern to manager Rock Renteria is closer to Alex Colome’s back. The right-hander did stretch things out over the weekend with a single, 1-inning appearance, and his availability is crucial if the White Sox are going to make a deep run.
Giolito’s final two starts ended in Chicago defeat, though the young ace posted quality efforts in both appearances. Only his season debut was a true stinker, and a no-hitter against the Pirates in late-August was the highlight. The 26-year-old Californian will be pitching in Oakland for the first time in his career, but Giolito has faced the A’s twice before in Chicago. He split those two decisions, actually pitching better in the loss than the win, and the key matchup will be against Matt Olson who is 4-for-6 with 2 HR against Giolito.
Can Luzardo Match 2019 Postseason Showing?
Oakland stepped up a spot to the No. 2 seed in the AL on the final day of the regular season. The A’s got off to a great start with a 22-10 record before going a pedestrian 14-14 the rest of the way, losing four of their final seven. The offense ranked ninth in the AL in both scoring (4.57 runs per game) and homers (71), but the pitching staff picked up the slack by ranking fourth in ERA (3.77) while allowing the third-fewest homers (69).
There’s no doubt manager Bob Melvin would love to write Matt Chapman’s name on his Wednesday lineup card, but the good news is that’s the only real injury concern for the A’s. Chapman has been sidelined since Labor Day when hip surgery ended his 2020 season.
One day shy of his 23rd birthday, Luzardo will be making his first postseason start and his first start in 10 days. The talented lefty worked three innings in relief last week in LA against the Dodgers, and didn’t have his command with three walks, three runs allowed, and no strikeouts in a 5-1 loss that BookMaker closed Oakland as a sizeable underdog. Luzardo also had a couple of other poor outings in September when he pitched to a 4.62 ERA, and he’ll be facing the White Sox for the first time in his career.
‘Over’ Cashes 7 of Last 9 in Oakland
Not only is this the first matchup of 2020 between the teams, but it’s also the first time the White Sox and Athletics have squared off in the postseason. In fact, it’s just the second time both have made the playoffs in the same year, the other time was in 2000 when both sides lost their ALDS matchups.
They have squared off more than 2,000 times before in the regular season, with the White Sox having a slight overall edge (1,045-994). Chicago certainly hasn’t had any edge recently in Oakland where the A’s have won the last eight matchups. Seven of the last nine encounters at the Coliseum have been ‘over’ winners.
It should be a nice afternoon for baseball in Oak City, the thermometer in the upper-70s at first pitch under clear skies with a light breeze from the west (out to right). It’s a pitcher’s park, that’s for sure, but the total is too low and I’ll be making my MLB pick on the ‘over.’