The A’s have clinched a playoff spot and the division title, so the only thing left to play for is seedings. The A’s are either going to be the #1, #2 or #3 seed in the playoffs, and play the first round at home. But there won’t be any home games beyond the first round. The rest of the playoffs will be played at neutral sites. So there’s really no remaining home field advantage left to play for.
That leaves only the quality of opponents as an incentive for the remainder of the season. But it’s not clear at all that being the #1 seed is any better than being the #2 or #3 seed. The #1 & #2 seeds play the #7 & #8 seeds, who are two best 3rd- or 4th-place teams. The #3 seed plays the #6 seed, which is the worst 2nd-place team. However it is entirely possible that the #6 team, which is almost certainly going to be the Astros, ends up with a worse record than either the #7 or #8 team. The #2 seed is likely to end up worst of the top three seeds to have in the AL, because you’re going to play whichever team finishes out of the top 2 in the AL Central. All three teams have similar records, and they each have a Cy Young candidate, Dallas Keuchel (White Sox), Kenta Maeda (Twins), and Shane Bieber (Indians) that you’d have to overcome.
That’s not to say you couldn’t get beat by the Astros or Blue Jays. You could. But more to the point, there doesn’t seem to be any clear incentive at this point for the A’s to improve their seeding.
So honestly, as the A’s faced off against baseball’s clearly best team in 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers, I didn’t feel any real urgency to see the A’s win. I watched with the kind of calm indifference you have when watching a spring training game. Although, to be honest, I may not have had the energy to care much because I took advantage of a rare day of perfect weather and clean air quality to take a long 30-mile bike ride during the day. I was kind of too physically tired at that point to bother getting worked up about anything.
The A’s gave up a bunch of home runs to the Dodgers, and lost 7-2. Frankie Montas just hasn’t looked the same since he tweaked his back earlier in the season. His slider lacks bite, his forkball seems to float and doesn’t get hitters off balance, and all that I think makes his fastball more hittable. So that’s a bit worrisome looking ahead to the playoffs. Montas probably won’t get a start in the first round, but if the A’s advance, he’ll probably get a start in each of the subsequent rounds. That said, there probably aren’t any teams he’d face in the AL playoffs with the thunder 1-9 in the lineup that the Dodgers have.
The A’s didn’t do much offensively against Dustin May, but that dude is nasty, so that’s not much of a surprise. They didn’t do much against the Dodgers bullpen either, but the Dodgers bullpen isn’t full of the kind of mediocrity that the A’s devour on other teams.
It is tempting to ascribe the A’s lackluster outing to their urgencylessness, but I don’t think that’s fair. Even if the A’s had entered this game will full incentives to win, the outcome may have been similar. The Dodgers are good. If the A’s go a whole week losing games in this fashion and limp into the playoffs, then I’ll be concerned.