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Previewing The American League Wild Card Game

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Marcus Semien #10 of the Oakland Athletics celebrates with teammate Matt Chapman #26 after their MLB game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Anaheim, California. The Athletics defeated the Angels 5-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

by Andrew Pasquini – Sports 1140 KHTK

For the second time in four years, the Oakland Athletics are on the road for the American League Wild Card Game.

This time the A’s travel to New York to take on the Yankees on Wednesday night with the chance to take on the Boston Red Sox on the line.

On the regular season, the Athletics finished with 3-3 record against the Yankees, with only one of them coming at Yankee Stadium back in May but in September, a sample more recent, the A’s were able to take two-of-three. While they split the season series, the A’s outscored New York 33-38 in those six games.

The Yankees will turn to staff ace Luis Severino against the A’s. On the season, Severino finished with a 3.39 ERA with 220 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.145. He did face Oakland once this season and that was on September 5 in a 8-2 loss. He would only pitch 2.2 innings allowing five earned runs and six hits.

Reliever Liam Hendriks will take the hill to start the game for the Athletics. It’ll be only his ninth start of the season and he has only thrown 8.2 innings as a starter this season. The Athletics are expected to continue their “opener” strategy, having a relief pitcher start the game and throw an inning and then be pulled for a starting pitcher however, it wouldn’t be surprising for it to be a game pitched entirely by the bullpen.

There will be two keys for the game and both teams excel in both categories, the first being bullpen pitching. The Athletics bullpen has been lights out all season. On the season, the A’s bullpen has a team ERA of 3.37 and a batting average against of .220, good for third and second in the majors respectively. The Yankees aren’t far behind as their ERA as a team sits at 3.38, third lowest, and and batting average against of .221, also third lowest.

Where the bullpens differ is the strikeout category. The Yankees bullpen held a strikeout rate of 30.2, an MLB record previously held by the 2017 Yankees bullpen. That strikeout rate totaled for 753 strikeouts, only one behind the Rays for most in the league. The A’s bullpen only recorded 627 strikeouts as a team, good for sixth. The ability to miss bats could negate the second key to this game and that’s both teams ability to hit the ball out of the park.

The Yankees lead all of baseball this season in home runs with 267, which broke the record for most home runs by a team. The Yankees lineup includes six players that hit 20 or more home runs led by Giancarlo Stanton (38) and Aaron Judge (27). Yankee Stadium is by all means a hitters park and this Yankee team took advantage of that. Of their 267 home runs, 144 were hit in the confines of Yankee Stadium.

The A’s have plenty of power in their lineup as well. They finished third in baseball in total home runs with 227, only behind the Yankees and Dodgers. They finished the season with five players who hit 20 or more home runs but one of them is home run leader Khris Davis who finished the campaign with 48 home runs.

The Athletics haven’t won a win-or-go-home game since Game 7 of the 1973 World Series but look to change that on Wednesday.