Yesterday might have been the single greatest day in Major League Baseball postseason history. Never before have we seen eight playoff games on a single day. It was absolutely glorious to watch. Maybe you can find a World Series game somewhere along the way that was more historically important. The Cubs and Red Sox breaking their longstanding curses come to mind, but in terms of pure entertainment value, September 30th, 2020, will go down as an all-timer.
The day kicked off early in the morning with the Reds and Braves playing a classic game, one that took thirteen innings to decide. Trevor Bauer and Max Fried dueled late into the game, with both starters refusing to give up an inch or allow a run. The game was decided when NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman walked it off for Atlanta in the bottom of the 13th to give the Braves the series lead.
— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2020
The action continued throughout the morning and well into the evening. The Houston Astros picked up the unlikely sweep on the Minnesota Twins, running the Twins playoff losing streak to a mind-boggling long 18 straight games. The Marlins took game one in Chicago against the Cubs, and the Tampa Bay Rays closed out their first-round series with the Blue Jays in a two-game sweep.
The late games saw the St. Louis Cardinals pick up a big upset victory over the suddenly starting pitching starved, San Diego Padres, and the Los Angeles Dodgers rolled in their game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Somehow in all of that action, only the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics are matched up for a deciding game three today, with Oakland picking up the win last night, to tie the series up at one game apiece. For our free daily betting pick, we will focus on the do or die game between the A’s and the White Sox.
Chicago White Sox (1-1) at Oakland Athletics (1-1)
It is win or go home today in Oakland, as the Athletics host the White Sox in game three of a three-game series. The White Sox took game one 4-1, behind a stellar start from Lucas Giolito and three home runs. The A’s got their revenge when they tied the series up in game two with a 5-3 win. Oakland roughed up White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel for five runs in the first four innings and held on late for the win yesterday.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 1, 2020
Starting today for the Athletics is Mike Fiers (6-3 4.58 ERA), and for the White Sox, it is Dane Dunning (2-0 3.97 ERA). The game is currently an even pick ’em with both teams laying -105. The game total over/under is set at nine runs. First pitch is scheduled for 12:10 PM PST from Ring Central in Oakland.
In each of the last two seasons, the Oakland Athletics have found themselves in a spot where they had a must-win game in the playoffs. In both years, it was Mike Fiers’s turn to start, and in both games, A’s manager Bob Melvin decided to go with somebody else on the mound. The A’s lost both of those games, and Melvin was criticized for not starting the veteran Fiers. The move was scrutinized particularly hard last year, as Fiers was 15-4 with a sub-four run ERA in 2019.
This year, Bob Melvin found himself in the exact same position, and instead of passing up on Fiers, he is giving him a chance to pitch. Last year, Melvin passed up on Fiers for Sean Manaea, and he had to choose between those two guys again in this game, as Manaea is rested and ready to pitch if Melvin wanted to make the move. Very similar to last season, Manaea has been pitching well as of late, but Melvin decided not to chance fate again with sitting Fiers, and if he picked wrong today, it just might cost him his job.
Mike Fiers (6-3 4.58 ERA)
We just talked about all of the times that Mike Fiers hasn’t been able to pitch, now let’s talk about what he has done when he is actually on the mound. Fiers had a solid season in 2020, starting eleven games and finishing with a 6-3 record and a respectable, while slightly inflated, 4.58 ERA. Fiers has done a great job of giving his team a chance to win each time he starts, though, as the A’s are 8-3 in his eleven starts.
In his last two starts of the regular season, Fiers impressed in two very tough places to pitch. In games in Colorado, at hitter-friendly Coors Field and at Dodger Stadium, against the best team in baseball, Fiers combined to pitch eleven innings and allowed just three earned runs. Fiers will be making his second-ever postseason appearance today, as he has only one inning in relief back in 2015, when he was pitching for the Houston Astros, on his postseason resume.
Chicago White Sox
Three weeks ago, I would have told you that the Chicago White Sox were legit World Series contenders. But after a disastrous finish to the regular season that saw them drop from first place, and the potential top seed in the American League playoffs, to third place in their division and the seven seed, when they lost nine out of their last twelve games, I am not so sure anymore. The White Sox have just stopped hitting the ball and scoring runs, and they are on the verge of elimination.
Chicago had a chance to close out the A’s yesterday in game two, but Dallas Keuchel got roughed up, and despite a late-inning comeback attempt that saw them leave the bases loaded to end the game, they are left scratching their heads and wondering if their once-promising season is going to come to an end today in Oakland.
Dane Dunning (2-0 3.97 ERA)
If Mike Fiers is the wily veteran for Oakland, Dane Dunning is the exact opposite for Chicago. Dunning was a former first-round draft pick and blue-chip prospect and made his Major League debut just over a month ago for the White Sox. Through the first five starts of his career, Dunning showed some flashes of brilliance, and was 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA.
But in his last two starts, he has really struggled, getting hammered for nine runs in just seven innings of work against the weak-hitting Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs. The White Sox didn’t have a lot of options in this game, but I can’t imagine that White Sox fans love that they are starting a kid with just 34 career big-league innings pitched in a game that means so much. Dunning will likely be kept on a short leash in this one and pulled at the first sign of trouble.
Who Do I Like?
I love elimination games in baseball. The intensity is always so ramped up, and every hit, out, and run matters. In elimination games, with all things being even, I am always going to lean on the home team. Sleeping in your own bed, and playing in your home park, is always an advantage, and while we won’t have any fans in the stands to help cheer the A’s on in this game, I still think the home team is the side to back.
Both of these teams finished the regular season playing poorly. The White Sox collapsed down the stretch, where the A’s clearly took their foot off the pedal with a large division lead. The circumstances were a bit different, but either way, neither of these teams hit the postseason red-hot. In just about every way that you slice this game, it is close to even, with one big exception, that starting pitching matchup.
Mike Fiers was very vocally and publicly upset when he got passed up the last two years. He gets the chance to prove to the world why he should have always been the go-to guy for Oakland, in game three today, and I think that he takes full advantage of the opportunity. In a spot where I get to choose between a pissed off veteran starter with a major chip on his shoulder, against a rookie that is in way over his head, I am taking the veteran every time.
Fiers has been very good in his three seasons with Oakland, as he has a 26-9 record. I think that he will find a way to get the A’s six, or possibly even seven, quality innings tonight. The White Sox just haven’t been able to score many runs lately, as they have scored four runs or fewer in eleven out of their last fourteen games. You can expect Fiers to take advantage of the recent White Sox struggles at the plate, and post stellar results.
As for Dane Dunning? I think White Sox manager Rick Renteria is going to feel a lot like Bob Melvin has felt the last two seasons, wondering why he started the wrong guy in an elimination game. I am not sure who the right guy was for Chicago, but I am sure it wasn’t a rookie that finished his first and only Major League season by getting smashed on the mound. Give me the Oakland A’s in this one, as they protect their home field by winning and advancing today in game three!