A's Clinch Playoff Spot for 3rd Straight Season After Mariners' Loss to Padres

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2020

Oakland Athletics' Mark Canha, right, celebrates with Matt Chapman (26) after hitting a two run homerun off Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly in the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics have clinched a spot in the 2020 MLB playoffs following the Seattle Mariners' 6-1 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday night. 

The A's are in line to win their first American League West title since 2013. They hold a seven game lead on the Houston Astros following Friday's win over the San Francisco Giants

Oakland has reached the postseason in each of the last two years, losing in the wild-card game. 

MLB lowered the bar for entry in this year's playoffs, with eight teams from each league moving on. As a result, the wild-card game is giving way to its own separate round.

Despite Oakland's success to this point, its pitching will be under the microscope come playoff time. As things stand, the A's are 16th in ERA (4.57) and 15th in FIP (4.40), per FanGraphs.

The rotation's collective FIP speaks to a unit that is solid but may not have a bona-fide ace.

Frankie Montas has fallen short of expectations and endured a brutal end to August, allowing 18 earned runs over 9.2 innings. Sean Manaea boasts a 4.50 ERA, which is skewed by a .322 opponent batting average on balls in play, per FanGraphs. Chris Bassitt and Jesus Luzardo have both been very good, but Luzardo's three innings in the 2019 wild-card game are the entirety of their playoff experience.

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MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported ahead of the trade deadline the A's were expected to add a starting pitcher, with the team eventually acquiring Mike Minor from the Texas Rangers

Minor's performance has dipped significantly compared to his 2019 production (14-10, 3.59 ERA and 200 strikeouts), which was good enough to earn his first All-Star nod. The veteran southpaw might not make a big impact when the postseason rolls around.

The Athletics have a strong bullpen led by Liam Hendriks, Jake Diekman, J.B. Wendelken and Yusmeiro Petit. Getting into a position where the relievers have a lead to protect could be the issue.