First it was reaching the .500 mark, then it was grabbing hold of a playoff spot, then playing meaningful games in September, then shocking the Texas Rangers and the world to take the AL West, now the A’s get set for their first postseason games in 6 years. Tomorrow afternoon/evening the A’s will take on the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the ALDS as Justin Verlander and Jarrod Parker oppose one another on the mound. This series will be something of a tale of David versus Goliath, but which team is playing which role is somewhat fuzzy.
Due to the late addition of the wild card game, and the league’s desire to not push the World Series further into the month of November, they saw fit to reshape the Division Series for a year and give the lower seeded team the first two games at home. So the team with the supposed home field advantage (The A’s) has to open on the road before getting to play a single game at home. The obvious flaw in this format is the fact that should the A’s lose those first two games in Detroit, they could find themselves getting to play just 1 home game if they were to lose game 3 in Oakland. Some advantage huh?
The A’s have made a habit of overcoming adversity this season, we all know the obstacles this team has dealt with during the 2012 season. At this point this could either be just another obstacle for the team to overcome, or it could be the one that finally derails their season. It also appears that this team has not proven themselves to anyone who fancies themselves an expert on the game. Just take for example the predictions by the 31 ESPN baseball writers, of all those writers just 1 actually predicts the A’s to win the World Series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going out on that limb and making such a bold prediction, but you’d think some writers would view them as a sexy pick to take it all considering the way they entered the playoffs here. But out of those 31 writers 20 of them don’t think the A’s will even escape the Division Series.
One of those ESPN writers the always up for brow beating a story into oblivion Pedro Gomez actually used the word “impossible” in an interview on 95.7 The Game last night. He did backtrack saying he “wouldn’t be shocked” if they won though, but his true feelings slipped out. Surely there are writers out there that are drinking the Kool Aid the A’s are serving, but once again as the A’s embark on the second season, the odds are stacked heavily against them.
This is when this team thrives, they know people don’t believe in them, but they believe in themselves and that’s all that matters.
Looking at the matchup for a moment, the obvious key to the series for the A’s is somehow neutralizing the impact of Miguel Cabrea and Prince Fielder. Assuredly the Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is front and center in everyone’s mind, but they seem to be ignoring the fact that a Triple Crown win does not equal a Division Series win. Jarrod Parker has shown the ability to shut down even the most potent of offenses, and he’ll have to do it again tomorrow. Justin Verlander is without a doubt one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but the A’s are more than capable of putting a crooked number on the board at any time. I expect a strong pitcher’s duel tomorrow, with perhaps one mistake pitch being the difference in one direction or the other. It’s going to be incredibly exciting to watch either way, and if the A’s can escape Detroit with a split they’ll be in a strong position to take this series when it comes back to Oakland.