2018 AL Wild Card Game: How Yankees Matchup Against Oakland
It’s time to dive in to find out how the New York Yankees matchup against the Oakland Athletics and how they can win the 2018 AL Wild Card game.
It’s that time of the year again Bronx Bomber Nation. October is here and the 2018 MLB playoffs have begun. The New York Yankees will be facing the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card game Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The 100-62 second-place team in the AL East will do battle with the 97-65 second-place team in the AL West in a one game playoff with everything on the line. It will be the Yankees third Wild Card game in the last four years, all three of them in the Bronx. New York is 1-1 in their previous two Wild Card games, losing to the Houston Astros in 2015 and winning over the Minnesota Twins in 2017. Now, it’s time to take a look at how they’ll match up against their Wild Card foe in 2018, the Oakland Athletics.
When you look at both the teams the Yankees and the Athletics have put on the field this season, you can see how similar they are. They are both home run hitting teams with very strong bullpens. The Yankees finished the regular season with 267 home runs, the most by a team in a season in MLB history. Not only that, their bullpen is ranked fourth in ERA at 3.38 and third in batting average against at .221. The Athletics are more of the same. Oakland ranks third in the league in home runs with 227, third in bullpen ERA at 3.37 and second in bullpen batting average against at .220.
So how did these teams fair when they played against each other in their regular season match-ups? On the surface, it looks quite even. The Yankees and Athletics split the six games they played each other in the regular season 3-3, with each team winning their respective home series. While it seems like it couldn’t be more equal, Oakland does have a slight edge in this regard. In those six games, they outscored the Yankees 33-28.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced Tuesday that ace Luis Severino would take the mound for his team in the Wild Card game. Severino started the season as a favorite to win the AL Cy Young, but struggled majorly throughout the second half. However, he began to recapture his ace form down the stretch in September and finished the season with a 3.39 ERA. While Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ were both just as deserving, Severino undeniably has the best stuff on the team and is the undisputed ace of the pitching staff.
Now it’s time to look how he fairs against the power bats from Oakland. Throughout their careers, the hitters in the Athletics’ lineup have hit .271 with just one home run. Jed Lowrie, in particular, is 6-for-11 lifetime against Severino.
In his start on May 13 at home against the A’s, Sevy pitched six innings on one run ball, allowing five hits and striking out nine in the Yankees 6-2 win. However, his road start against them on Sept 5 didn’t go as well, to say the least. Severino got hammered at Oakland Alameda Coliseum that day, only lasting 2.2 innings allowing six runs, five earned in the 8-2 Yankee loss.
Last but not least, we have to take into consideration the disaster that was the 2017 Wild Card game for Severino. He only managed to record one out in the first inning before handing it over to the bullpen after giving up three runs.
So with all of this taken into consideration, what can we expect from Severino in the Wild Card game this time around? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. But one thing’s for sure. The Yankees are likely to have Severino on a short leash just like last year. It’s crucial for Severino to get out of the first inning without trouble, something he has struggled with in the second half of the season. Don’t be surprised to see the Yankees yank the leash on Severino the moment he gets into serious trouble.
With no clear shutdown ace in their starting rotation, the Athletics will dip into their bullpen and use their relief pitchers to pitch the Wild Card game. The “opener” for the game will be right hander Liam Hendriks. Despite being a reliever, Hendriks has started games before for Oakland and has had success. In 8.2 innings pitched as a starter in the 2018 season, Hendriks has pitched to a 2.20 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and threw seven strikeouts.
If we’re going by the career batter vs. pitcher numbers, the A’s definitely made the right decision to bullpen this game. While the Yankee batters have had success against Hendriks, hitting .348 against him, it’s all but a given that he doesn’t make it past the first inning. Against the rest of Oakland’s bullpen, New York is hitting just .178 with two home runs.
So with all of what we’ve discussed taken into consideration, what is the key to the Yankees beating Oakland tonight? My answer would be the first inning. Both sides, Severino and the Yankees lineup, need to hit the ground running if the Yankees want to move on to take on the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Hendriks might be the only guy the Yankees will see that they’ve had success against. If they don’t score against him in that first inning, they might have a tough time scoring runs throughout the rest of the game. Furthermore, if Severino implodes again and gives Oakland an early lead, there’s a very good chance the Yankees 2018 season will end with them taking an early trip to the golf course.
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