Oakland Athletics’ Wild Card starter: Who should get the ball against the Yankees?

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 26: Edwin Jackson #37 of the Oakland Athletics pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners during their game at Safeco Field on September 26, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

As the end of the regular season quickly approaches, the two American League Wild Card teams are set. The one-game ALDS play-in contest will feature the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics, and it looks likely that the game will take place at Yankee Stadium. So, who should be the Oakland Athletics’ wildcard starter?

Oakland Athletics’ Wild Card starter: Who should get the ball against the Yankees?

The Yanks will almost certainly try to have ace Luis Severino ready to go, but the A’s face a bigger question mark when it comes to their starting pitching.

Any of their four current top starters — Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, Edwin Jackson, and Trevor Cahill — could be given the ball for the most important game of Oakland’s season.

However, none of them are particularly good options to take on the Yankees in New York. The Bronx Bombers have six players — Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres — who have hit more than 20 home runs this year, and guys like Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird (and others) who can pound mistakes into the bleachers.

So, who should the A’s turn to for this game, assuming they can stack their rotation to get the guy they want ready? It’s not an easy choice, but here’s a look at how each pitcher stacks up (all stats current as of Wednesday):

Mike Fiers

Record: 5-1, 2.90 ERA (with the A’s)
Road stats: 4-5, 4.07 ERA
HRs allowed: 30 (1.6 per 9 innings)
Ground ball %: 39.9%

Fiers came over from the Detroit Tigers earlier this season, but he has pitched by far the most innings this year of any pitcher on this list. However, his 30 home runs allowed and 39.9 percent ground-ball rate won’t play well in Yankee Stadium against that power-filled New York lineup.

This year, in two games, Fiers has a 7.59 ERA at Yankee Stadium, so he is probably out of the mix.

Brett Anderson

Record: 4-5, 4.42 ERA
Road stats: 2-4, 6.07 ERA
HRs allowed: 9 (1 per 9 innings)
Ground ball %: 57.0%

Anderson has a solid ground-ball rate and his one-home-run-per-nine-innings stat is pretty good, too. However, those road numbers leave a lot to be desired. Also, he’s left-handed and the Yankees have a lot of right-handed power bats, so that could be a really bad matchup.

Edwin Jackson

Record: 6-3, 3.18 ERA
Road stats: 1-1, 3.00 ERA
HRs allowed: 12 (1.2 per 9 innings)
Ground ball %: 36.2%

Even at age 35, Jackson has been a revelation for the A’s this year. His road ERA is over a run lower than any of the A’s other starters, and he has been pitching well regardless of ballpark.

The only thing that would give you pause about sending Jackson out to face the Yankees is that ground-ball rate. Yankee Stadium turns a lot of harmless fly balls into home runs, so Jackson could find trouble in that regard.

In four career games at the new Yankee Stadium, Jackson is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA.

Trevor Cahill

Record: 6-4, 3.91 ERA
Road stats: 1-3, 7.02 ERA
HRs allowed: 8 (0.7 per 9 innings)
Ground ball %: 53.7%

If you look at Cahill’s road stats, it sends up a major red flag. However, his other numbers are pretty decent.

That’s a ground-ball rate that will play at Yankee Stadium, and it’s good to see a home-run rate under one per nine innings. Cahill has been a very reliable guy for the A’s, even if his road numbers look really ugly.

His numbers at Yankee Stadium are even worse, as he’s 0-2 in four games with an astronomical 15.63 ERA. He’s also given up six home runs in 12.2 innings of work in the Bronx.

Verdict: Yikes. None of the A’s options are good, but someone has to take the mound.

Therefore, why not ride the hot (ish) hand? Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners, the A’s had won nine of Jackson’s last 10 starts.

The offense is going to have to carry the load in New York no matter what happens, but Jackson has the experience and recent success to get the A’s through into the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. It won’t be easy, but Jackson is the best choice for a one-game playoff, and the fact that he started on Wednesday sets him up for pitching on full rest in the wildcard game.
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