Baseball v.2018: If you can’t find a tallest midget, find several really good dwarfs. Welcome to the circus that is the “opener” and the “bullpen game”.
Right now the tallest midget in the A’s rotation appears to be Mike Fiers, and if the A’s wind up hosting a wild card game against the Yankees it seems awfully likely Fiers will get the initial call. However, his Coliseum start against New York showed exactly why he’s risky to try at Yankee Stadium, as Brett Gardner opened the game with a fly ball to RF that the Coliseum held, Yankee Stadium not so much.
The A’s are still gunning for the Astros and the division, even though they have only until September 27th to make up 2.5 games before they would have to put their hopes in the spoiler-capabilities of the Baltimore Orioles, Houston’s opponent for their final 4 games.
The most likely outcome? It’s the status quo, which has Oakland traveling to New York for a one-game wild card showdown in the Bronx. Some of the more obvious options have been much discussed: Fiers or Jackson on a short leash, or the “bullpen game” highlighted by a parade of “plus relievers”.
There are other possibilities, so let’s add one to the mix today and see what you think. Would it be so outrageous, in a one-game “winner take all” playoff, with 2 days off entering the wild card game, to earmark 3 IP each for Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen? Trivino has gone 3 IP once (his second big league appearance), Treinen once (also April 18th vs. the White Sox), and if you’re comfortable with that blueprint you just secured 6 of the 9 innings with pitchers arguably better than any SP either team has to offer.
You are then countering Tanaka or Happ or Severino (an interesting dilemma for the Yankees, but that’s another article) with a combination of, say, Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney, Shawn Kelley, and Ryan Buchter. Any 2-3 of those can combine to get you through the first 3 IP, with 4-6 belonging to Trivino and 7-9 to Treinen.
Here’s one way I assess how good or bad an idea it is. How do I think the Yankees would feel if the A’s announced this was their plan. I don’t think it would be to rub their hands together and ponder a feast. I think it would be a “Dang, they’re really gonna do it?” sinking feeling. Not that the TnT boys are any guarantee to fire 3 scoreless innings, but if I’m the Yankees that’s exactly who I don’t want to have to face for 2⁄3 of the game.
I’m warming up to this as my best suggestion, knowing that it can be lined up without risking overuse of either reliever — both of whom may also be able to be held out Sunday, September 30th if you prefer to give them 3 days off prior. And the A’s have enough plus relievers that one, e.g., Rodney or Kelley or Buchter, can be held back solely for the purpose of finishing a 3rd inning if the pitch count, or effectiveness, becomes an issue.
Treinen going 5 IP is outrageous, as is starting Trivino and asking him to get through 4 IP. But preparing them to go 3 IP a piece, and getting another 3 from Familia and Kelley/Rodney? For one game in the Bronx that might be pretty reasonable.
None of which will matter when the Astros lose their remaining 15 games and the A’s waltz away with the AL West, or when the Red Sox sweep 6 from the Yankees and send the wild card game to Oakland. But just in case there’s a game in New York, how should the A’s line it up? I say load up the dynamite!
How should the A’s line up a wild card game in New York?
This poll is closed
Fiers on a short leash and the bullpen
Jackson on a short leash and the bullpen
Bullpen game with Treinen 3, Trivino 3
Bullpen game with 1-2 IP stints from many relievers