The A’s and Astros started as simple divisional rivals, and things quickly escalated. We can’t forget former Astros now A’s starting pitcher Mike Fiers initiating the Astros cheating scandal, and then Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron saying foul things about Ramon Laureano which turned into a benches-clearing mini-brawl at the Coliseum in August.

The A’s will start Chris Bassitt for Game 1 and LHP Sean Manaea will start the second game of the AL Divisional Series for Oakland (36-14) against their AL West rival Houston Astros.

Visit SFBay for complete coverage of this series from A’s beat writer Simone McCarthy, reporting from Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Astros (29-31) have yet to announce who will take the mound Monday at Dodgers Stadium but it seems fair to project that ace Zach Greinke will start Game 1.

When it comes to pressure, Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA) puts more pressure on his preparation than anything else. His teammates are confident in him and he is confident in his teammates, which he said helps him relax:

“Once the game starts I just have the mindset whatever happens, happens. I’m gonna give my best that day and if it’s good enough then I’m extremely happy. If it’s not good enough, I will try to figure out why but I don’t try to to overthink too much.”

These teams have faced each other ten times this season; the A’s won seven with five wins at home in Oakland. Bassitt said he knows the Astros well at this point:

“They know me, I know them, I have watched enough film on them to last a lifetime and I know they have done the same for me … I’m not hiding anything from them and they aren’t hiding anything from me so it’s going to be fun.”

Manager Bob Melvin said it was important for Manaea to pitch again and believes the left-hander is ready for it:

“He wants another one. He is quite a competitor for a jovial guy, he gets fired up to pitch so yeah he wanted another one, he wanted to pitch in the last series, he understood kinda how we were going about it but was itching to pitch so anytime you have a memory like that, you wanna get back and erase that.”

The A’s outshined the Astros in regular season but as Bassitt likes to say, what happened in regular season doesn’t matter. Melvin agreed that winning the season series guarantees nothing, and spoke of the Astros and the challenge they bring:

 They are a great team. They have been in this position multiple times over the last several years, so they are a very difficult team to play which obviously Minnesota found out in a hurry too, a very experienced playoff team. I think more than anything it just gave us a little bit more confidence during the season that we finally took a season series from them.”

Manaea had one of his best outings of 2020 against the Astros Sept. 9, when he pitched seven innings and retired the first fifteen batters in a 3-2 Oakland win. He pitched well as the season went along, picking up wins in four of his last six starts while trimming in half an ERA that peaked at 9.00 after a 10-9 loss to the Los Angeles Angels Aug. 10. 

Oakland outscored Houston 38-25 in their ten 2020 matchups, with two wins coming on walkoffs. Melvin said these two teams play a lot of close games and a lot of emotional games:

“Two good teams, both have good offensives, both have good pitching, seem to match up pretty well, just goes into more of what this series is about, a lot of storylines in this series and the close games is one of them. They have been evenly matched games and all of them have been hard fought until the end. I wouldn’t suggest that it would be any different at this point this series should be hard fought and probably close games again.”

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Chris Bassitt faces a to-be-determined Houston Astros pitcher at 1:07 p.m. Monday at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.

Simone McCarthy

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