The Oakland A’s will switch up their starting rotation heading into their ALDS series with the Houston Astros. Chris Bassitt – who started the 2nd game of the wild card series – will take the hill in the series opener, per Martín Gallegos of MLB.com (via Twitter).
It would be easy to confuse Bassitt for a fungible back-end rotation type, but he’s been a consistent performer for Oakland over the years. This season represented a breakout of sorts for the 31-year-old, who went 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA/3.59 FIP over 11 starts in the regular season. He went 7 innings, giving up just 1 earned run to keep the A’s season alive in game 2 of the wild card round against the White Sox.
Lefty Sean Manaea will look for postseason redemption when he gets the ball in game 2, per Gallegos. Manaea – Gallegos reminds us – gave up 3 home runs over just two innings last season in a wild card game loss to the Rays. He’ll be familiar with his surroundings at Dodger Stadium, as his last start came in that very park a little under two weeks ago. For the year, Manaea went 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA/3.71 FIP in 11 starts.
Manaea is one of a number of southpaws the A’s could throw at the Astros, who as a team marked a 94 wRC+ against lefties in 2020 versus 102 wRC+ against right-handers. Alex Bregman crushed lefties in 2020 for a 166 wRC+, but each of Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Kyle Tucker performed markedly better versus right-handers this season.
After Bassitt and Manaea, the A’s could go in a number of different directions, which will likely depend on the results of the first two games. Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo, Mike Minor, and Mike Fiers could all be possibilities to start games 3 through 5. That group gives the A’s a slight advantage over the Astros when it comes to their rotations, writes MLB.com’s Andrew Simon.
It would be quite the showdown for Fiers to get a start late in this series. Fiers, of course, famously outed the Astros in the sign-stealing scandal that rocked the baseball world last winter. The Astros and A’s already have enough to fight about given the early-season altercation between Ramon Laureano and Astros’ hitting coach Alex Cintron, which led to suspensions for the involved parties.
All that said, Fiers may very well not be the best option for the A’s. Though he started the deciding third game of the wild card series, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings. In prior seasons, he’s been passed over for key postseason starts both with the Astros and the Athletics. Luzardo is certain to land higher on the pecking order than Fiers, though he could be utilized out of the bullpen as he was in 2019. The same can be said for Montas, who came out of the bullpen for a two-inning stint against the White Sox.
On the other side, manager Dusty Baker announced Lance McCullers Jr. and Framber Valdez as the starters for games 1 and 2, respectively, per the Athletic’s Jake Kaplan and others. The only real surprise here is that Zack Greinke would then be held out until game 3. Greinke is less likely than others to show up out of the bullpen the way Valdez did in game 1 of the wild card series. Still, with a 5-game series in 5 days, there figures to be less opportunity for that sort of roster manipulation. There will be a game 3, and no matter how the first two games of the series go, the Astros figure to feel pretty good with a rested Greinke ready to go in game 3. Baker, to be clear, has not named his game 3 starter.