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Oakland A’s 2020 ALDS: Jesús Luzardo will start Game 3, but not Zack Greinke

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Jose Urquidy goes for Astros

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are on the ropes. They dropped the first two games of the 2020 ALDS to the Houston Astros, which means they’ll have to win the next three in a row to avoid elimination and move on to the next round.

They’ll look to begin that comeback in Game 3, and they’ll turn to pitcher Jesús Luzardo to make the start, the team announced.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros were expected to call on veteran ace Zack Greinke, but the right-hander is dealing with arm soreness and will sit out, reports insider Brian McTaggart. It’s unclear whether Greinke will pitch at all the rest of the series.

Instead, right-hander Jose Urquidy will take the mound for the Astros, per McTaggart.

Luzardo vs. Urquidy

This will be Luzardo’s second start in this postseason, after getting the ball for Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. That first try went poorly, as the lefty served up a pair of homers to the Chicago White Sox powerful righty lineup. He was knocked out in the 4th inning of an eventual loss.

Luzardo, G1 WCS: 3⅓ ip, 3 runs, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 2 HR, 6 hits, .378 xwOBA

However, that wasn’t representative of the rookie phenom’s full track record. He appeared in the 2019 Wild Card Game and fired three brilliant scoreless innings, and he followed that with a strong performance in his first full MLB regular season this summer. Overall he posted a 4.12 ERA and 4.19 FIP in 59 innings, including a couple relief appearances, but his numbers were even slightly better in the nine starts he made, other than a couple extra homers.

Luzardo, 9 starts: 3.83 ERA, 49⅓ ip, 52 Ks, 11 BB, 9 HR, 4.31 FIP, .298 xwOBA

In particular, Luzardo faced the Astros twice in 2020. The first time he came one out short of finishing six innings for a quality start, but still allowed just two runs to earn the victory. A month later, he went seven strong to beat Houston again.

Luzardo, vs. HOU: 2.84 ERA, 12⅔ ip, 12 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HR, 9 hits, .338 xwOBA

Might there have been some rookie jitters in that last game against the White Sox, especially with the pressure of getting the high-profile Game 1 nod? He’ll get the chance to prove it on Wednesday and save the A’s season.

Meanwhile, Urquidy also started in the WCS, in Game 2 against the Twins. He pitched into the 5th inning without allowing a run but was removed mid-frame, and the bullpen let through the runner they inherited from him to tie the score. The Astros lineup later rallied to victory.

Urquidy, G2 WCS: 4⅓ ip, 1 run, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 2 hits, .250 xwOBA

The righty only made five starts this year, but he was generally effective just like he’d been in 2019.

Urquidy, 2020: 2.73 ERA, 29⅔ ip, 17 Ks, 8 BB, 4 HR, 4.71 FIP, .335 xwOBA

He faced the A’s once this year, putting up a technically quality start but not a great performance. Only one run crossed the plate, but he couldn’t strike out a lineup that loves to strike out. He allowed a fair amount of hard contact, including a homer by Matt Olson.

Urquidy, vs. OAK: 6 ip, 2 runs, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 2 hits, .346 xwOBA

He also saw Oakland once in 2019 and fared much better. He only lasted five innings that day, but struck out 10 of the 17 batters he faced and allowed just a solo homer to Marcus Semien.

Of course, remember that the 25-year-old already has some serious postseason experience. Last year he pitched once each in the ALDS and ALCS, with good results, and then he started Game 4 of the World Series and delivered five scoreless innings for the win.

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It’s a fun young matchup between two rising stars, but it’s difficult to appreciate such details when your team is on the brink. Luzardo just turned 23 last week and he has a bright future regardless of what happens on Wednesday, but he could get a head start on building that legacy by stepping up and saving the A’s for one more day.