With three days left in the regular season after the A’s 5-1 loss to the Dodgers, the A’s still have seven different possible playoff opponents in the first round: Astros, Angels, Twins, White Sox, Indians, Yankees, and Blue Jays.
I tried to figure out what the odds were of each of these possibilities, but I got as far as realizing there were 2,097,152 different ways all the relevant weekend games in the American League could play out, and realized I wouldn’t have enough time to do the work before all of Friday’s games would be over, and my calculations would be moot anyway.
But I’m kind of sure that most likely opponent is still the Astros, if the A’s finish as the #3 seed, and the Astros #6. The Astros are locked into the #6 seed if they make the playoffs. The only way they wouldn’t make the playoffs is if they lose their last three games against the Rangers, and the Angels win all three of their games against the Dodgers. Given how good the Dodgers are and how bad the Rangers are, that seems very very unlikely.
So really, the only way the A’s wouldn’t play the Astros is if they don’t finish as the #3 seed. Right now, that’s their seeding, so they’d have to pass either the Rays or whichever team wins the AL Central. Since there are three teams fighting for the AL Central, the winner will probably win at least two if not all three games this weekend, so the A’s would probably have to go 4-0 or 3-1 against the Mariners to not end up as the #3 seed. That’s possible, but not as likely as the combination of going 2-2, 1-3, or 0-4.
But even though the most likely opponents are (I think, in order) the Astros or the Indians, there are still five other possible opponents. So the A’s tried to set up their rotation in order to give them as many options as possible for their first round playoff, which they can adjust depending on who their opponent ends up being.
That’s why they started Mike Fiers tonight, as it was his turn in the rotation, but also finished up with Jesús Luzardo, who was on his normal four days rest because of the off day on Monday. And with Chris Bassitt pitching on Friday, that allows the A’s the option of starting game 1 with either Sean Manaea, Fiers, or Luzardo, and then having the choice of using whichever ones they don’t use in game 1 plus Bassitt for Game 2.
The A’s lost this game to the Dodgers 5-1, as Walker Buehler who started for the Dodgers was dominant. Fiers pitched OK, giving up two runs, and then Luzardo struggled in his first inning of work, giving up three runs, but then settled down after that.
That’s not how you’d normally play out a game like this if it mattered, but the game had no consequence to the Dodgers, and little to the A’s. Setting up the rotation for maximum flexibility was the whole point of this affair, and they did exactly that. The rest is all in the hands of the gods of permutations.