|Day 162: Drama an AL Affair||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on October 03, 2012
Would it be the A’s or the Rangers who’d win the AL West? And which one of them would be playing in the it-all-comes-down-to-a-single game Wild Card playoff? On the East coast the questions were almost the same, but for the Yankees and Orioles the question boiled down to, Would there be a game 163 to break a tie so that the division winner and wild card winner could be decided?
Of course this was all resolved Wednesday and now we know that there won’t be a game 163 this year. The Yankees spanked Boston to win the AL East and the Orioles ran into problems on the final day and became a Wild Card team. The Oakland A’s are the Western division champions and the Rangers will play host in the wild card game against the Orioles.
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
Now the improbable A’s are headed to Detroit to play the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera who clinched the Triple Crown and who’ll probably win the MVP (despite a more deserving Mike Trout of the Angels who finished hitting .326 with 30 HR and 49 SB, and who was more valuable to his team). Meanwhile the Yankees await the winner of Friday’s wild card game.
The wild card game, despite my reservations, looks to be intriguing. The Rangers are coming off a big collapse though not quite on the scale of the Red Sox back in 2011, and they haven’t been eliminated. But it had to sting as they led the division by a huge margin (and led the A’s by 13 games at one point) for most of the season and still had a five-game lead just eight games ago.
They go into the game against a Baltimore Orioles team that has already exceeded expectations and isn’t facing the pressure that the free spending high budget, high offense, highly touted Rangers have, especially on the heels of their divisional collapse.
It’s a true David and Goliath scenario, one that could be decided easily by a single thrown stone, or in this case ball. And the Rangers are indeed Goliath despite identical records. Their pitching numbers were likewise almost identical, separated by just hundredths of a percentage point in terms of ERA. But in terms of offense the Rangers have the edge as they lead the AL in runs scored, while the Baltimore offense didn’t even finish in the top half.
Now both teams go into a high pressure game, one unlike anything baseball has done historically, where a single error can damn an entire season. That means it’s important who they hand the ball to and just how long they stick with that pitcher if they get into trouble.
For the Rangers that initial pitcher will be “rookie” Yu Darvish. For the Oriole it’s up in the air, which could mean almost anyone save Chris Tillman who pitched on Wednesday, could take the hill. The dark horse candidate here has to be Jason Hammel -- arguably the best of Baltimore’s starters, but one who hasn’t started since September 11th and has been dealing with an injury since that time. Miguel Gonzalez is also a likely candidate.
It may not be day 163 of the regular season, but it should make Friday a very interesting day and with the Cardinals and Braves facing off in a Wild Card game that same day it won’t be an all American League affair.