One American League Divisional Series will feature a matchup of AL West foes as the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics do battle. The Astros got here by sweeping the Minnesota Twins in two games during their Wild-Card series, while the Athletics beat the Chicago White Sox in three games.
This will be a best-of-five series starting on Monday. Here is a closer look at the series.
Trying to maintain a “bubble” atmosphere, the series will be held at the neutral venue of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The schedule will be as follows:
- Game 1: Monday, 4:07 p.m. ET, TBS
- Game 2: Tuesday, Time TBD, TBS
- Game 3: Wednesday, Time TBD, TBS
- Game 4 (if necessary): Thursday, Time TBD, TBS
- Game 5 (if necessary): Friday, Time TBD, TBS
2020 Regular-Season Records
- Houston Astros: 29-31
- Oakland Athletics: 36-24
Being in the same division, these teams are certainly no strangers to one another. In 2020, the two squared off 10 times, with the Athletics winning seven.
In fact, the only three games that the Astros won were seven-inning games that were played as part of doubleheaders.
Houston Astros 2020 Stats
Offensively, the Astros didn’t light the Minnesota Twins up in the Wild-Card series, but they got the job done. In total, they scored seven runs over the two games. Shortstop Carlos Correa had a nice series going 3-for-6 with a home run, an RBI, and two runs scored. Another player to watch is outfielder Kyle Tucker, who hit .268/.325/.512 with nine home runs, 42 RBI, and 33 runs scored. During the regular season, the Astros ranked 14th in scoring, averaging 4.61 runs per game.
The pitching staff may have been one of the most impressive parts of their Wild-Card series, holding the Twins to two runs. Manager Dusty Baker used a tandem pitching strategy where he piggybacked starting pitchers, but given the longer series, this is a strategy that likely will have to be abandoned. One of the first two starters will likely be Lance McCullers Jr., who didn’t pitch against Minnesota but had an ERA of 1.53, 0.91 WHIP, and struck out 24 in 17 2/3 innings across four starts in the last month of the regular season.
One area to watch is the Houston bullpen. While it struggled at times during the regular season, the biggest concern could be rust, as in the Minnesota series, only two relievers were used. Brooks Raley pitched 2/3 of an inning while closer Ryan Pressly pitched a single inning. With the series starting on Monday, that means most will not have taken a mound in game-action in over a week.
Oakland Athletics 2020 Stats
Unlike the Astros, the Oakland Athletics had a bit more of a fight on their hands in the Wild-Card series. In the first round, catcher Sean Murphy led the way hitting .375/.500/750 with a home run, two RBI, and three runs. During the regular season, Oakland ranked 17th overall in terms of runs scored, averaging 4.54 runs per game.
The offense might be hit or miss, but the Athletics can certainly dominate a game from the mound, as the team ranked fifth in the league in earned run average at 3.77. Chris Bassitt was their best starting pitcher down the stretch, going 5-2 on the season with a 2.29 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 55 strikeouts in 63 innings. In the Game 2 win over Chicago, Bassitt went seven innings, allowing six hits, one earned run, one walk and striking out five.
While the Oakland starting rotation is solid, the bullpen is superb. In the first series, Jake Diekman, Lou Trivino, and J.B. Wendelken combined to go six innings, allowing no runs, one hit, and striking out four. Throw in closer Liam Hendricks, and this is a bullpen that can shorten a game, taking pressure off the starting rotation.
- Game 1: Lance McCullers vs Chris Bassitt
- Game 2: Framber Valdez vs Sean Manaea
- Game 3: TBD vs. TBD
- Game 4: TBD vs. TBD
- Game 5: TBD vs. TBD
Heading into the divisional series, Oakland is the favorite at -130, while Houston is at even odds to advance to the American League Championship Series. Looking at odds to reach the World Series, Oakland is sitting at +375, while Houston is at +535.
Divisional Series Pick
While anything can happen in a playoff setting, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Athletics have had the Astros’ number. If the Astros offense can finally click, it might be Houston moving on, but at this point, it is tough to bet against the Athletics and their pitching staff, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. I am taking the Athletics to move on to the ALCS.