The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics take their rivalry to the next level Monday afternoon when they open the best-of-five American League Division Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
The second-seeded A’s will be the designated home team in the first two games of neutral-site series by virtue of having finished seven games ahead of the sixth-seeded Astros atop the AL West.
Both teams advanced to the league semifinals with wins over AL Central opponents in the first round of the postseason last week, with Oakland outlasting the Chicago White Sox in three games, while Houston dispatched of Minnesota in a 2-0 sweep.
The A’s got the better of the Astros 7-3 in the season series, but also had the advantage of getting eight of the 10 games at home because of a joint walk-out on a scheduled game at Houston on Aug. 28 and a coronavirus-caused postponement two days later.
Both those games were made up as part of a five-game series at Oakland from Sept. 7-10, with the A’s taking four of five to distance themselves from the three-time reigning division champ.
A’s manager Bob Melvin, having just seen his team end a 14-year drought without a postseason-series win, warned the playoffs aren’t the regular season.
“I don’t know that it’s an advantage,” he said of the season-series win. “Playing well against them this year was something we needed to do. It doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Pitching dominated the regular-season matchups, with Oakland claiming four wins in contests in which it scored three or fewer runs.
The season series also featured Oakland’s Ramon Laureano charging the Astros’ dugout after getting hit by a pitch on Aug. 9. He was suspended for four games, while Houston hitting coach Alex Cintron was banned for 20 games after having been cited for instigating the incident.
Both managers weighed their options before announcing starting pitchers for Game 1, with Oakland’s Melvin eventually naming right-hander Chris Bassitt, while Houston’s Dusty Baker remained noncommittal late into the day Sunday.
Righty Zack Greinke, the ace of the Astros staff who has a highly successful history against the A’s, was considered to be the logical choice.
If in fact Greinke gets the ball, each team will have seen a lot of the Game 1 opposing pitcher this season, although neither has faced him in postseason play.
Greinke made three starts against the A’s in the regular season, getting a no-decision, a win and a loss. He served up home runs to Laureano, Matt Chapman and Khris Davis.
Chapman won’t play in this series because of a torn labrum in his hip.
Bassitt went head-to-head with the Astros standout twice, also getting a no-decision in Oakland’s 3-2 win on Aug. 7 and taking the loss in a 6-3 defeat on Aug. 29. He missed Greinke by a day when he beat the Astros 6-0 with seven shutout innings on Sept. 7. Kyle Tucker and Josh Reddick homered off Bassitt in Houston.
Greinke has gone 9-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 21 career meetings (17 starts) against the A’s. The ex-Los Angeles Dodger also has plenty of experience at Dodger Stadium, going 30-10 there in his career with a 2.61 ERA in 54 starts.
Bassitt is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA in nine games (eight starts) in his career against the Astros. He has never pitched at Dodger Stadium.
The series site favors the Astros, former A’s outfielder Reddick insisted.
“Getting those guys out of that comfort level increases our chance at success,” he said of the A’s losing the home-field advantage. “Getting to a neutral site is huge for us.”
–Field Level Media