The Athletics are down 0-2 in a best-of-three divisional series against a Detroit Tiger team that features the first triple crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski did it for the Boston Red Sox in 1967. They have struck out 23 times in those first two games while accumulating only three extra-base hits (two homeruns). That’s just the good news.
The bad news is that the A’s are in a dire situation–no matter what they say. With one game between them and elimination, the A’s, as they are accustomed, now must play do-or-die baseball. But perhaps this is good news. After all, what other team this postseason is primed to make such an improbable comeback?
Okay, what other team besides the Baltimore Orioles?
The A’s aren’t performing any worse than they have been all season. Which is to say, they’ve been a team that strikes out often and touches extra bases only when touching them all–so to speak. The pitching staff is allowing an alarmingly high number of fly-balls and an equally alarmingly low number of ground-balls. But this is nothing unusual. The only difference now is that the Tigers are the one’s getting lucky.
In Game 1, starter Jarrod Parker errored when he did/did not attempt to flip the ball to first baseman, the result of which allowed Austin Jackson to score on the next play.
In Game 2, the usually sure-handed Coco Crisp is unable to handle a Miguel Cabrera two-out fly ball, allowing two Detroit runs in the process. “I like to think I make it 100 out of 100,” Crisp said after the game. “But obviously, that’s changed.”
That’s changed for more than just Crisp. These two errors are uncharacteristic for a team that, as Fangraph’s Eno Sarris points out, “can pick it.” The A’s have the third best UZR/150 rating in the league and a UDR of 14. Which is to say, the defense usually saves the A’s runs, not vice versa.
Where there is smoke, there’s fire, and that’s the Tigers right now. In Game 2, the Tigers had a .407 BABIP–a modest .273 in Game 1. They’re making contact and getting hits–18 over two games, five of which were for extra bases. And, more importantly, the second worst defensive team in the league is error free.
Despite the bad luck, the A’s aren’t doing what I and others have been doing all season: Counting themselves out. ”We’re not done yet,” said outfielder Josh Reddick.
There is no reason to believe they would be. They’ve played their best baseball when they didn’t have the expectation of victory. Certainly, now, nobody outside the A’s and their die hard fans expect them to sweep the Tigers. If anything, the pressure is on the Tigers to not falter as the more talented Texas Rangers did at O.Co Coliseum.