The Oakland A’s will send Jesus Luzardo to the hill tonight to try and save their season. Down 2-0 to the Astros, the A’s now need three consecutive wins to advance to the ALCS.
Luzardo gave up 3 earned runs across 3 1/3 innings in game one of the wild card round against the White Sox. The A’s lost that game. Per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, manager Bob Melvin isn’t worried about how that tough outing might affect Luzardo. In fact, he’s encouraged by it, saying “I really believe when he has a tough outing, it doesn’t affect his confidence – it’s more of a learning experience for him. We think he’s going to have a good outing for us.”
Not to mention, those White Sox ended the year undefeated against left-handed starters. The Astros haven’t fared quite as well, slashing .232/.299/.403 against lefties as a team. That’s an on-base percentage 19 points worse than against right-handers, notes Slusser.
If Luzardo does get into trouble early, Melvin will likely turn to Yusmeiro Petit or J.B. Wendelken to “clean up any early mess,” per Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle. The only real certainty is that closer Liam Hendriks is going to see action. He could come in earlier than usual, but after not appearing in the first two games, the A’s won’t wait overlong to get perhaps their best reliever into the game.
Hendriks is one of a number of A’s players who will be free agents at the end of the season. Mid-season additions Mike Minor and Tommy La Stella are both heading to free agency, as are Petit, wormkiller T.J. McFarland, outfielder Robbie Grossman, Mike Fiers, Joakim Soria, and star shortstop Marcus Semien. Of that group, Hendriks and Semien are going to be the most difficult for Oakland to bring back simply from a financial demand perspective. With just about one-third of their overall roster heading to free agency, today might be this group’s last opportunity to pull out a big win.
If they do pull of the W tonight, manager Bob Melvin implied that Frankie Montas would get the start in game four, per MLB.com’s Martín Gallegos (via Twitter). On choosing between Luzardo and Montas, Melvin said, “We’re hoping they both pitch. One one day, one the other.” That said, today is a must-win, and they do have Fiers on the roster who could start game four if need be.