For the first time in the history of the sport, the wild-card team in each league will now be decided by a single-game playoff between the two best teams among non-division winners in the standings. That puts a huge amount of importance on pitching, especially the starting pitcher.
A team may be lacking offensively, but one great start by an ace and suddenly they're only looking for one or two runs to send them to the postseason. It's an exciting new approach to the wild-card race, but it's one that can be fortuitous or deadly depending on your standing and who you draw in the game.
Here are the five teams the A's are would like to face if they make the one-game playoff.
The Rays may have a less-than-stellar offense to put it politely, but they do have one of the best starters in the game in David Price. He's the kind of starter that if he has it going it's lights out for the other team.
The Rays are also an extremely resilient bunch, best exemplified by their late postseason push last year. They may not be the prettiest team to watch, but they know how to win when it matters and they have a wealth of experience that only makes them more dangerous.
Though rookie phenom Chris Sale burned the A's a few weeks ago, striking out 11 in 6.2 innings, he is still just a rookie. Between the significance of the moment and the increase of innings pitched, it would certainly be uncharted territory for the young starter.
Now, Sale may rise to the occasion, but there may never be a more pressure-intense situation on a starting pitcher—and that is a tough thing for anyone to handle, let alone a 23-year-old.
Heading into the season, most people thought the A's' and Angels' positions in the standings would've been switched. Instead of pushing Texas for first in the division, the Angels find themselves trailing both Texas and Oakland.
Yes the Angels would most likely send Jered Weaver to the hill in a one-game playoff, but if the A's must face a game-changing pitcher at least it would be one they're extremely familiar with.
This is a long shot assuming the Rays or O's overtake the Yankees for first in the AL East, but if the A's do draw New York in a one-game playoff they should feel pretty good heading into the matchup.
Even if C.C. Sabathia is on the mound the A's should have a ton of confidence after the last time the two met, when Oakland swept New York in a four-game series, winning each game by only one run. Those are the kind of wins that show a team's capable of winning big games when it matters.
Much like the A's, no one quite expected the Orioles to be in the position they are. Also like the A's, they lack a true No. 1 starter, which would make them a great team to play when an entire season rests on one game.
Chances are the O's would call upon rookie starter Wei-Yin Chen to pitch them into the postseason. Right now he owns an ERA barely south of 4.00, which would make him the kind of pitcher the A's would love to face if they had to face another team's "ace."