The Chicago White Sox get an opportunity to continue the Oakland Athletics’ postseason woes and send the American League West champs into another early offseason Wednesday afternoon when the clubs continue their first-round playoff series with Game 2.
Two low-ERA starters — Chicago left-hander Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 1.99) and Oakland righty Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29) — are scheduled to get the ball in a series that got off to a low-scoring start Tuesday, thanks mostly to White Sox ace Lucas Giolito.
Supported by three home runs, Giolito flirted with baseball immortality hurling six perfect innings before eventually combining with three relievers on a three-hitter and a 4-1 victory that gave the seventh-seeded White Sox a 1-0 lead over the second-seeded A’s in the best-of-three set.
Adam Engel, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal homered for the White Sox, who are seeking their first postseason-series victory since winning the 2005 World Series.
The A’s have not won a postseason series since 2006, but unlike the White Sox, who are making their first appearance since 2008, Oakland is a fairly regular participant in October. Since sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 AL Division Series, the A’s have come up short in their six opportunities since (three series and three AL wild-card games).
To even force a Game 3 in this series, they’ll need to solve the veteran Keuchel, who is 4-2 in his postseason career with a 3.47 ERA. Coming off a season in which he recorded a career-best ERA, he will be making his 12th postseason start. Keuchel, 32, hasn’t received a decision in his past four, including two for the Atlanta Braves last October, since he took a loss in the Houston Astros’ run to the World Series crown in 2017.
In his career against the A’s, Keuchel is 6-6 despite a fine 3.06 ERA in 22 career games, 20 starts. He is just 2-4 at Oakland, including a 7-1 loss for the Astros in his most recent visit in August 2018.
One regular member of the Oakland lineup he’ll be happy not to see is third baseman Matt Chapman, who has bombed Keuchel for a .400 average with two doubles and two home runs in 16 career plate appearances. Chapman’s season ended on Sept. 6 when he sustained a torn labrum in his hip. The A’s have been held to three or fewer runs in 13 of 24 games since then.
Keuchel has not lasted longer than six innings since experiencing back spasms earlier this month. He is confident those issues are behind him.
“We’ll go inning-by-inning here in the playoffs,” he said Tuesday. “But it’s nice, mentally, to have that comfort zone, knowing that the body is going to let me go as long as it really needs to. I take great pride in all my work that I do.”
Bassitt hasn’t needed much support in a personal three-game winning streak, having allowed just one run and 23 hits in 26 2/3 innings over his past four starts.
Originally drafted by the White Sox in 2011, Bassitt moved to the A’s along with Marcus Semien in a six-player deal in December 2014 that saw Jeff Samardzija go to Chicago.
The Toledo, Ohio, native still has family and friends in the Midwest, including some of the latter in the White Sox organization.
“It’s special for me, just because it’s like a playing-with-your-friends kind of thing,” Bassitt said of facing the White Sox. “So it’s fun; it’s a different dynamic.”
Against the White Sox, the 31-year-old is 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA in four career starts.
Engel (0-for-4), Abreu (3-for-12) and Grandal (0-for-3), Chicago’s three home run hitters in the series opener, have batted a combined .158 against Bassitt in their careers.
The pitching matchup is strength vs. strength, with Bassitt 2-1 with a 0.72 ERA in six home starts this season while Keuchel has pitched his best on the road, going 3-1 with a 1.60 ERA in seven starts.
–Field Level Media