Thursday, October 05, 2006

Playoffs, Day 2: All Systems Go

2-0 still doesn't mean anything. Nothing will mean anything until the A's exorcise the big, fat, brimstone-blowing demon known as their record in potential ALDS-clinching games since 2000 - 0-9. That is one ugly number. Nine times, the A's have had their chance to book their ticket to the next round - and nine times, they've fallen on their face, jumping out to a 2-0 lead against New York in 2001 before losing the next three, losing the DS to Minnesota in 2002, and taking a 2-0 lead against the Red Sox in 2003 before blowing the next three straight to hell. So, it's understandable that as an A's fan, I'm excited, but this deal sure as shit is not yet sealed.

Mark Kotsay provided the heroics today with a two-out, two-run, inside-the-park homer after Torii Hunter tried an ill-advised dive and the ball went past him all the way to the wall. Esteban Loaiza showed why he's a #2 starter on a playoff team after being a nightmare for the first few months of the season, keeping the Twinks off the board until A's murderers Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau took him deep for back-to-back HR in the sixth inning. Can't fault the A's bullpen work after that - the three-headed monster of Kiko Calero, Justin Duchscherer, and Huston Street closed it out.

I am, however, worried about Street, as most A's fans are. He got the job done yesterday and today, but not without a little too much drama, and I believe that his 11 blown saves in the regular season were the most in MLB. Just think of that - we could have won 113 games if he'd converted them all. This team is young, and good, and hungry, and it's not the Chokeland teams of 2000-03. I think they can do it, but I'm not breaking out the green and gold streamers just yet.

Danny Haren takes on Brad Radke at 4 PM ET on Friday. Haren's been up and down - after a rocky start to the season, he was as solid a number-two guy as can be found on any staff, but scuffled badly down the stretch. However, his last start was serviceable, if not stellar - 3 runs in 6 innings - and his last brilliant start came against these very same Twinks - 8 innings, no runs. He matched up amazingly with Johan Santana last season, pitching a complete game and allowing 1 run, but losing anyway since the bats couldn't back him up.

We want to win tomorrow. We really need to. Otherwise, a short-rested Santana may be back out for Game 4 against Rich Harden, and if the Twins take that, it's back to the Terrordome for Game 5. We do not want to go back to the Big Baggy, Santana or not. We got unbelievably lucky the first time; I want to seal the deal before we ever have to see him again.

However, all was not sunshine and unicorns for the A's today. (If you read Athletics Nation, you'll get the reference). Mark Ellis broke his finger after an abortive swing at a high and inside pitch, and will be out for the rest of the series and the ALCS as well...assuming we get there...knock on wood). This isn't bad news for the A's offensively, but it's bad defensively. Ellis is one of the superior second basemen in the game and made only 2 errors all season long. D'Angelo Jimenez, while serviceable, isn't close to his standard. Hopefully, though, this will have a negligible, if at all, effect on the remainder of the ALDS. Get well, Ellie!

(I have his signature on my hat... I actually got it at a time when he was out with a broken thumb. As a matter of fact, I have the signatures of Ellis, Barry Zito, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Huston Street, Brad Halsey, Kirk Saarloos, Jay Witasick, Scott Sauerbeck (ugghh....) and Chad Gaudin on that hat. I'm very proud of it).

Speaking of which, I'm still wearing A's gear - it's the A's ALDS hat's turn tomorrow. If the slipper fits... and if we go to the ALCS, I'll spend more money on yet more A's gear. They're the only team that I will do that for. I recently bought $50 worth of baseball posters - $35 of that went to one A's poster. I love them, what can I say?

The Cards had an off-day today, probably so that their slot on ESPN could be filled instead by the Mets/Dodgers game, which the Mets won 6-5. Jeff Weaver (!) vs. David Wells tomorrow, 4 PM ET. No, that's not a misprint: he of the 3-10 record and 6+ ERA for the LAAAAAA has turned into the Cards' #2 guy, probably attesting to their rotation's utter lack of depth after Cy Young Carp. It's a bit puzzling how Jeff Suppan, who had a 2.27 ERA after the break, didn't get the call, but apparently he's slotted to open Game 3 in New Busch Stadium.

As long as they don't pitch Jason Marquis, whose place on a playoff roster is utterly confounding.

Things don't look that great for the Birdies tomorrow. Lefties hit a whopping .340 off Weaver, who's worse on the road anyway. 7 of 9 Padres hitters will be lefties, including the starting pitcher, and the Cards have trouble hitting lefties. But as long as they have Prince Albert, and Scott Rolen, Jimmy Edmonds, Chris Duncan, Ronnie Belliard, and everyone else (cough cough) contribute, things could go either way. Hopefully, if the Cards get down, they can get Carp another start in Busch, where he was unbeatable this year. (Aside from the late-season debacle against these very same Padres, but he atoned very nicely for that yesterday).

Ah, October baseball...

The start of the Tigers/Yanks game is apparently delayed by rain. I'm 30 minutes outside of the city and it's not raining here, but it was definitely looking gloomy the last time I checked. It's 9 PM now, so they'll be playing late if they do get the game in. Whatever. My dearest hope for this series is that A-Rod fails utterly to get a meaningful hit in any late-game situation, the end.



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