Of the two teams in the Bay Area, one is able to win when it can’t afford to lose, and the other typically loses when it most needs to win.
The San Francisco Giants have won two World Series title in the last five seasons, with this one incomplete. And they’ve won the last seven postseason games, including Wednesday, when a loss would have eliminated them
The Oakland A’s haven’t won two series in the last 23 years, even though they’ve played 14 games with an opportunity to do so. They’ve won just one, and that wasn’t on Tuesday night despite giving the pitcher they traded for in July a four-run lead and twice needing three outs to win.
The A’s loss might have been as difficult to endure as the Giants’ was easy to achieve. But if there’s a moral to it, it has nothing to do with Moneyball or seven stolen bases and four sacrifice bunts beating two home runs. It’s that the A’s need a better bullpen.
Of course, when you have a book written and a movie filmed about your business model, and Brad Pitt portrays you, you set yourself up for mockery. If you want to pick on A’s GM Billy Beane, do so because Sean Doolittle has three blown saves in the past three postseasons (Doolittle’s defense abetting, or abandoning, him twice).
It’s rarely mentioned that the A’s began 2014 with two starting pitchers who made 64 starts and won 26 games in 2013 — Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin — lost for the season. The Braves began 2014 likewise and finished four games under .500 and out of the playoffs.
It seems silly to ask if Beane will now break up the A’s. They’re already broken. Not just by Tuesday’s loss, but by 2014’s deals. Yoenis Cespedes is a Red Sox. Addison Russell is a Cubs prospect. Tommy Milone is a Twin. Seth Smith is a Padre. Much of the team, excepting MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, is spare parts.
Baseball people like to say the bad luck evens out over a long season. If it’s also true about playoff bad luck. the A’s have a dynasty upcoming. Or they’re paying, in some reincarnative way, for the ’70s.
On to the ALDS:
Tickets are as hard to come by as home runs now in Kansas City, where the average standing room space is going for more than $200 and the average resale value is more than $400, according to ESPN.com. That’s in contrast to September, when anyone who wanted to see the Royals could have walked up on game day and walked right in. The Royals played 10 home games in September before hitting 30,000 fans; in four of the 10 they couldn’t draw 20,000. Everything’s like a dream in Kansas City, It’s better than a magic lantern show. Until the playoffs, the magic lantern show attracted more attention. Twenty-nine years without created a lot of disbelief.
The Angels’ starting pitcher is the big question. Jered Weaver has been topping out in the high 80’s, Matt Shoemaker hasn’t pitched in two weeks and C.J. Wilson is an enigma wrapped inside a curveball: he followed a seven-inning one-hitter by walking four and giving up six runs in a first-inning knockout. After that, it’s a choice between Hector Santiago and Wade LeBlanc. And reliever Mike Morin, first in the middle innings, finished the season by allowing seven hits to his last 12 batters.
Oh, and you’ll hear about this Mike Trout on the Angels. His defense may be tested.
If this were an election, the Tigers would be the early returns from the rural areas. The have the better starting pitching (Justin Verlander being the big question) and the early innings should be theirs. If the Tigers are behind early, that’s foreboding.
The Orioles are the late results from the city. They have the better bullpen. They also, with more power, may have redundancies in their count.
The Tigers insist on Joe Nathan closing, which is going to make for a lot of nervous ninth-inning pacing by Tigers fans.
The Orioles hit 211 home runs this year, 34 more than any team that didn’t play a mile up. Forty-three of them aren’t available this series because of the injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado and Chris Davis’ suspension. Davis is eligible to return in the ALCS.
Buck Showalter gets a lot of credit for the Orioles’ success, and perhaps deservedly so. But he’s never won a playoff series (he did win a wild-card game with Orioles in 2012), and twice after being fired his old teams won the World Series the next year: the Yankees in 1996 and the Diamondbacks in 2001.
Showalter is 0-3 in series and 6-9 in postseason games, but is matched against Tigers rookie manager Brad Ausmus. Showalter threw his first pitch when the rosters were announced, omitting lefty relievers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland, which tells you all you need to know about what Buck thinks of the left-handed side of the Tigers’ bench. If Alex Avila gets a big hit off a righty because Andrew Miller has been used, someone will ask if Ubaldo Jimenez is on the roster because of his performance or his contract. Jimenez’s last outing — four innings, one hit — might have been his best of a bad season.