Last night the Oakland A’s wasted a good start by Dan Straily (and a 4-2 lead) in Arlington, and in the process fell five games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West standings. An insurmountable climb, indeed. As the divisional ship sails away, the Wild Card is no sure thing either — the Angels have won three in a row and now sit only two games behind Oakland with nine to play.
With the Angels sticking around, there’s a good chance that the battle for the second Wild Card could stretch into the last series of the season. Oakland will face Texas for three more to close out the schedule, as Anaheim will face Seattle. Since the Angels have gained three games in the standings since the A’s took the first three games of their four-game set in Oakland a couple weeks ago, we know anything can happen.
However, for the purposes of this post, I’m asking you to pretend that the A’s prevail and finish as one of the two Wild Card teams. I’m also going to ask you to pretend that the other Wild Card team ends up being the Orioles, who currently sit 1.5 games ahead of the A’s and 1.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Now that we’re in a mood to predict the future, if the A’s and Orioles face off in a single-elimination game on Friday, Oct. 5, who will start for the A’s in that play-in game?
If the rotation plays out the way it has over the past five games, Jarrod Parker will start on Oct. 1 against Texas, followed by Travis Blackley and A.J. Griffin on Oct. 2-3. The A’s would then get a day off on Oct. 4.
Here are Oakland’s options for Oct. 5:
Dan Straily: If the A’s went with the current setup and didn’t skip anyone, it would be Straily’s turn.
Tommy Milone: It’s likely that the A’s would skip Straily, who has only made six career Major League starts and allowed 4 ER in 4.2 innings when the A’s lost to the Orioles on Sept. 16. Milone would be pitching on four days of rest in an elimination game, and according to Fangraphs has the second-highest WAR this season among Oakland’s available starters.
A.J. Griffin: Griffin is scheduled to pitch on the last day of the regular season, but if the A’s have clinched a Wild Card berth by then they could hold Griffin back and pitch him a couple days later in the elimination game. However, Griffin has failed to get through five innings in two consecutive starts after pitching eight scoreless innings in Anaheim on Sept. 12. Griffin is a little more experienced than Straily, but not that much more — he’s only made 13 big league starts.
Jarrod Parker: Man, the A’s pitching staff is young. Parker, 23, has been the best pitcher in the current rotation. He has also been the A’s best starter over the past 30 days (0.8 fWAR, 3.11 FIP, 2.91 ERA). However, would the A’s pitch Parker on three days rest?
Travis Blackley: This has no chance of happening for several reasons. However, if the scheduled starter falters on Oct. 5, Blackley could be called on to pitch several innings.
Brett Anderson: Jon Morosi tweeted that Anderson’s oblique injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, which had to drive Bob Melvin and Billy Beane insane since Anderson was pitching really well before he got hurt (again).
However, we have this from Susan Slusser:
Melvin was leery of looking to far ahead when asked about the possibility of having Anderson for the postseason, but Anderson said he is hopeful he will be ready by then. His understanding is that it will take about a week for the inflammation to subside, and he plans to do all his rehab diligently – just as he did with his Tommy John surgery last year – with the idea of pitching “sooner rather than later.”
“It would be a good story if I come back and throw in the play-in (wild-card) game,” said Anderson, who had been lined up for exactly that, the potential first game of the postseason, be it a playoff game to get into the postseason, the wild-card game or, should the A’s win the division, the first game of the division series.
So while it’s probably unlikely that the A’s risk Anderson re-injuring his oblique or elbow or whatever, there’s no doubt a healthy Anderson would’ve been the choice here.
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TODAY’S COMMENT TOPIC: IF THE A’S MAKE IT TO A WILD CARD ELIMINATION GAME ON OCT. 5, WHICH A’S STARTER WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO START THAT GAME?