2) Oakland Athletics V. 7) Chicago White Sox
The Oakland Athletics are back in the playoffs for the third straight year, but this time, they finally overtook the Houston Astros and won the American League West. Oakland will be without the face of the franchise Matt Champan who is out for the season after he underwent surgery for a hip injury. Without him, the offense is led by Matt Olsen, Marcus Semien, Mark Canha, and Khris Davis. While they still have some significant pop in the lineup, Champman’s absence hurts. Oakland’s offense finished the 2020 season 25th in batting average (.225), 18th in homers (71), 15th in RBIs, (264),15th in wRC+ (101),15th in on-base percentage (OBP, .322), and 18th in OPS (.716). Overall they are a middle of the pack offense.
Oakland has been successful this season thanks to their starting rotation and bullpen. Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Jesus Luzardo will most likely be the team’s starting pitchers for the three-game series. Closer, Liam Hendricks has established himself as one of the best relievers in the game. This year he posted a 1.78 ERA and a 1.14 FIP, while going 14 for 15 in save opportunities. If the Athletics are able to hand him the ball with a lead, more than not he will close out the game.
The Chicago White Sox have finally arrived. After starting a full rebuild in December of 2016, the White Sox have risen from the basement to a legitimate threat. Lucas Giolito who was acquired in a trade with the Nationals is the team’s ace. Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez who are key parts of the offense were acquired in trades with the Red Sox and Cubs respectively. Rookie Luis Roberts was an international free agent who has made a flawless transition to the big leagues. Throw in stud shortstop Tim Anderson and long time White Sox Jose Abreu, and Chicago has a fascinating core. In the off-season, they brought in Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Keuchel all on free-agent deals.
It is important to note that the White Sox floundered down the stretch, losing nine of their last twelve, which cost them the American League Central title. However, in a best of three series, having Keuchel and Giolito on the mound gives them as a good a chance as anyone else. Throw in either Dylan Cease or Dane Dunning for game three, and the White Sox have an elite rotation for a short series.
Prediction: Without Matt Champman, Lucas Giolito and Dallas Kuechel will prove too much for Oakland’s offense to handle. White Sox in 2.