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Early exit for Yankees? Our MLB experts predict playoff dark horses and disappointments
SportsPulse: Which Chicago team will surprise? Is there a team from Ohio that could make a run? Are the Yankees primed for an early exit? Our experts predict their dark horses and disappointments for the postseason.
Marcus Semien and Khris Davis homered and Chris Bassitt took a shutout into the eighth inning as the Oakland Athletics evened their wild-card playoff series against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday with a 5-3 victory.
However, the outcome of Thursday’s decisive Game 3 could well be impacted by Oakland manager Bob Melvin’s decision to go to closer Liam Hendriks in the eighth inning to protect a five-run lead.
Hendriks, one of the game’s best closers during the regular season with 14 saves and a 1.78 ERA, entered after Bassitt allowed a leadoff single. He gave up a one-out homer to Yasmani Grandal to cut the A’s lead to 5-3.
Then, with two outs in the ninth, Hendriks allowed two singles and a walk before finally exiting after throwing a season-high 49 pitches.
Jake Diekman, pitching for the second consecutive day, walked in a run before retiring Jose Abreu on a sizzling ground ball to end the game.
Although the A’s survived elimination, they’ll go into Game 3 with their two best relievers at less than full strength. Melvin insisted after the game Hendriks would be available, if needed, on Thursday.
With no off days during this year’s best-of-three wild and best-of-five Division Series rounds, bullpen management may become an even more important factor.
If the A’s end up losing Game 3 – especially if it’s close in the late innings – Melvin’s decision to lean so heavily on Hendriks in a non-save situation the day before could have Oakland fans second-guessing him the entire offseason.