COMMENTARY | The Oakland Athletics need to win a baseball game.
Since the end of a decidedly crushing Game 4 loss against the Detroit Tigers, talk has centered around Justin Verlander, the Tigers' pitcher in Game 5, and how Oakland has blown its chance. The chatter is everywhere, convincing to the paranoid ear.
What is it? Nonsense.
Everybody who follows baseball knows the A's are 1-11 in games when they can eliminate a team in postseason play since 1990. It means jack. What Oakland did in 2000 with Gil Heredia has nothing to do with how this outcome will be decided at the O.co Coliseum.
Assuredly, nobody in the A's clubhouse an hour before game time will be pondering how Billy Koch could have given up a three-run homer to Minnesota Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the ninth, or why Jeremy Giambi did not slide. Ask the 25 guys in Oakland's dugout what position Koch played, and you are likely to get 20 or so blank stares.
This game is about the here and now, not Verlander's performance in Game 2, in which he pitched seven shutout innings and earned a no-decision. Even the show in last year's Game 5 by ex-Mr. Kate Upton makes an ounce of sense to think about. That was then, this is now.
Verlander could go out Thursday and strike out 20 baffled A's, throw a perfect game and get carried off the field. With the same amount of probability, Verlander could be slump-shouldered, walking off the mound to deafening, mocking roars in the second inning. Nobody will know until the game is done.
Oakland is a good enough team to top Detroit, as shown by its 96 wins during the regular season and victories in Games 2 and 3 of this American League Division Series. There are no underdogs in this series, despite what the national media might have you believe. It is a coin-flip.
Home-field advantage will be nice to have for the A's, who play to their ballpark with massive foul ground. It could make the difference on a couple plays, but likely not much more. A raucous crowd never hurts either, but, ultimately, the fans are in the seats. Unless you're in Detroit, then you are leaning over the railing.
So, here we are. Game 167 of the baseball journey for two teams expected to be in the postseason back on April Fools' Day. So many days, so many ups and downs, all culminating in a single game.
Over the course of this regular season, Oakland played 1,488 innings. Add on 36 innings this series, and you have a grand total of 1,524 frames of baseball.
Nothing but the next nine matter.
Matt Verderame is a lifelong Oakland A's follower and has been published in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin and also at SB Nation among other papers and websites. His twitter handle is @MattVerderame.
- Sports & Recreation
- Oakland Athletics
- Justin Verlander
- Detroit Tigers