One Major League post-season tradition is draping ballparks in red, white and blue bunting. This is both a gesture of celebration and patriotism for the National Pastime. However, two days into the 2012 playoffs, the San Francisco Bay Area may as well be draped in black. Both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s have been turned every which way but loose.
This is a polite way of saying that the two teams representing the region are in big trouble, both of them trailing 2-0 in best-three-out-of-five series. Concurrently, the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers look like easy conquerors as the scene shifts for both division series. The Reds are rolling after two games that weren’t even close and it’s difficult to picture the Giants taking three straight at the Great American Ball Park. At least the A’s kept their games against Detroit close and they will be home for the duration now.
Still, the Giants and the A’s were both hot teams at the end of the regular season, so I suspect neither saw these deficits coming. The Giants sprinted away from the Los Angeles Dodgers during the last month of the campaign to capture the National League West Division title. The A’s caught the Texas Rangers on the last day of the regular season to edge them out for the American League West Division crown.
Both teams were riding a high coming into the playoffs, yet they are inches away from seasonal foreclosure. The Giants have been completely unable to handle the Reds’ pitching. Not even having the advantage of Cincinnati ’s No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto going out with an injury in the first inning of the first game saved Frisco in the opener and the Giants fell 5-2. Bronson Arroyo just flat-out whipped the Giants in the second game, a 9-0 triumph. The Giants seemed lucky to even get a foul ball off of Arroyo on Sunday night. The Reds have the top bullpen in the majors with a 2.65 earned run average. They made full use of it in the opener, but didn’t even need the top guns in the second game.
The A’s spent all of one day in first place during the regular season–the last and most important day. They loomed as a team that you didn’t want to face in the post-season. The Tigers, deemed underachievers much of the summer, until they put away the White Sox in the season’s last week, reversed expectations. Oakland looked like a team that could do no wrong, but the Tigers got the necessary clutch hitting and pitching in their 3-1 and 5-4 wins.
Going into the National League Division Series, the battle of Cincinnati-San Francisco appeared to be pick-’em. The Giants seemed to have the pitching to match up with the Reds. That has not proven to be the case. Now the Reds go home. I think a Reds sweep is now likely.
I don’t think the Tigers will have it as easy in Oakland. The A’s are one of those teams like the Baltimore Orioles that you must drive a stake through the heart to make sure they’re dead. I figure on the A’s taking the next game and maybe even two, but not winning all three on the West Coast from the Tigers.