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Athletics-Astros ALDS preview: Schedule, prediction, pitchers for showdown between rivals

Even having ended the Houston Astros' three-year reign as American League West champions, the Oakland Athletics couldn't get completely free of their division rival.

Having won their respective wild-card series, the Athletics and Astros meet in the best-of-five AL Division Series starting Monday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, a matchup certainly not lacking in storylines.

Oakland required all three games to beat the Chicago White Sox, coming back after dropping the opener to win a postseason series for the first time since 2006. Houston, meanwhile, took both games on the road to best the  AL Central champion Minnesota Twins.

The Athletics won seven of the 10 games between the two sides in the regular season, holding the Astros to a .202 batting average and 22 runs.

Schedule

All games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (*if necessary and all times ET)

Game 1, Monday: Astros (Zack Greinke, 3-3, 4.03 ERA) at Athletics (Chris Bassitt, 5-2, 2.29 ERA), 4:07 p.m. (TBS)

Game 2, Tuesday: Astros (Lance McCullers Jr., 3-3, 3.93 ERA) at Athletics (Sean Manaea, 4-3, 4.50 ERA), 4:37 p.m. (TBS)

Game 3, Wednesday: Athletics (Mike Fiers, 6-3, 4.58 ERA) at Astros (Jose Urquidy, 1-1, 2.73 ERA), 3:35 p.m. (TBS)

Game 4*, Thursday: Athletics at Astros (TBD), 3:35 p.m. (TBS)

Game 5*, Friday: Astros (TBD) at Athletics (TBD), 3:35 p.m. (TBS)

Yuli Gurriel tags out Ramon Laureano during a game in August. (Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)

Three things to watch

Fiers vs. Astros: Despite the 10 regular-season meetings, Houston never faced Mike Fiers, the former Astro who blew the lid off the team's cheating scandal. It's likely Fiers will start a game in this series, but Astros manager Dusty Baker has downplayed a potential meeting. "I haven’t heard Mike Fiers’ name all year, until you just said it right now," Baker told reporters Friday. "It’s like he’s not even present." 

No days off: The potential for five games in five days is going to create headaches. We saw Athletics manager Bob Melvin get aggressive in the wild-card round – bringing in closer Liam Hendriks to get five outs with a five-run lead in Game 2 – then using him again a day later, having thrown 49 pitches. There's a little bit more room for error here, but just how many times can the teams' best relievers go in this series?

Astros' defiance: Baseball's most reviled team reached the playoffs with a losing record before making quick work of the Twins in the wild-card series. "I know a lot of people are mad, I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here, but what are they going to say now?" shortstop Carlos Correa said after the sweep. 

Prediction

Astros in 5.

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