A capsule look at the best-of-five playoff series between the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics in Los Angeles beginning Monday:
Season Series: Athletics won 7-3.
Playoff Entry: second place, AL West.
Playoff Seed: No. 6.
Manager: Dusty Baker (first season).
Projected Rotation: RHP Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA, 67 Ks), RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 3.93, 56 Ks), RHP Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.73, 17 Ks), LHP Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57, 76 Ks), RHP Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48, 54 Ks.).
Top Hitters: DH Michael Brantley (.300, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs, 15 doubles), CF George Springer (.265, 14, 32), LF Kyle Tucker (.268, 9, 42).
Top Relievers: RHP Ryan Pressly (1-3, 3.43 ERA, 12 saves), LHP Brooks Raley (0-1, 3.94, 1 save).
Series Summary: Last year’s American League champions limped into the playoffs as the only AL team to make it with a losing record after dropping three straight and four of their last five. But then they swept two games at AL Central champion Minnesota in the first round, outscoring the Twins 7-2 and handing them their record 18th straight postseason defeat. Valdez, Urquidy and Javier all delivered on the mound. Brantley and Carlos Correa came through at the plate, including a clutch home run by Correa. Springer and Jose Altuve went a combined 1 for 16 with two RBIs. … Houston has reached the ALDS for the fourth straight year. … With ace Justin Verlander out following Tommy John surgery, more pressure seemingly falls on Greinke, who turns 37 this month. But he stumbled to a 6.07 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in his final five starts of the regular season as part of a second-half slide. And he was on a short hook against the Twins, taking a no-decision in Game 1 when he allowed one run, two hits and three walks on 79 pitches in four innings. Valdez followed with five shutout innings of two-hit ball. … Houston’s lineup isn’t nearly as potent as the one that reached the World Series last season, with designated hitter Yordan Alvarez out for the season and stars Altuve and Alex Bregman having lackluster years. Houston’s outfielders, Brantley, Springer and Tucker, paced the offense during the season and will need to keep it going. … Houston was 9-23 on the road, the third-worst record in the majors. … This is the fifth different team Baker has taken to the postseason.
Playoff Entry: AL West champions.
Playoff Seed: No. 2.
Manager: Bob Melvin (10th season).
Projected Rotation: RHP Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA, 55 Ks), LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50, 45 Ks), RHP Mike Fiers (6-3, 4.58), LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-2, 4.12, 59 Ks), RHP Frankie Montas (3-5, 5.60, 60 Ks in 53 IP).
Top Hitters: 1B Matt Olson (.195, 14 HRs, 42 RBIs, .734 OPS), SS Marcus Semien (.223, 7, 17, .679 OPS), LF Robbie Grossman (.241, 8, 22, .826 OPS).
Top Relievers: RHP Liam Hendriks (3-1, 1.78 ERA, 14/15 saves), LHP Jake Diekman (2-0, 0.42).
Series Summary: The A’s are in the playoffs for the third straight season and 11th time since 2000. Playing at home, they rebounded from a loss in their first-round opener to win the next two games and eliminate the Chicago White Sox 2-1 in the best-of-three series. Fiers started Game 3 but lasted just 1 1/3 innings. Montas won in relief. … It was the first time Oakland advanced in a postseason series since reaching the 2006 ALCS, where the A’s were swept by Detroit. Oakland had lost nine straight winner-take-all postseason games, a major league record that dated to the 1973 World Series. The A’s also had dropped six consecutive playoff series since sweeping Minnesota in the 2006 Division Series. … A’s won 97 games each of the past two seasons only to finish second in the AL West behind the rival Astros. This year, Oakland outscored Houston 38-25 during a heated season series. … Last November, ex-Houston pitcher Fiers was the whistleblower in the Astros’ cheating scheme. He revealed the club had used a camera in center field to steal signs on the way to winning the 2017 World Series championship. Fiers’ disclosure led to the season-long suspensions by MLB and ensuing firings of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch. Fiers didn’t face the Astros during the regular season, so he could make his first appearance against them since on the big October stage. … In August, A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano had a six-game suspension reduced to four games on appeal for his role in a bench-clearing brawl with the Astros, and Houston hitting coach Alex Cintron received a 20-game suspension and a fine for his part in the fracas Aug. 9 at Oakland. … The A’s had a nine-game winning streak to begin August and then mostly coasted to their first division title in seven years despite losing star 3B Matt Chapman to a season-ending hip injury and off years at the plate from Semien, Laureano and Khris Davis. … Late-season additions Tommy La Stella and Jake Lamb sparked an offense that batted .225 for the season, worst for the franchise since 1908. Oakland ranked in the top 10 in walks and hit by pitches to help produce a respectable .322 on-base percentage. … Bassitt went from fringe starter coming into the season to the team’s most reliable option. The 22-year-old Luzardo was picked to pitch the playoff opener but lasted only 3 1/3 innings in a 4-1 loss. … Led by Hendriks, Diekman, Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit, the A’s had the second-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.72. The team’s ERA was 1.29 lower at home than on the road.
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