Three games, two wins equals playoffs.
That's what the A's face now. But it is an equation that is rife with numerous variables.
To me, these are the two of the most imporant...
First, can the A's actually hit with RISP?
The A's are 21st in the majors in batting with RISP with a .260. This despite an Oakland-record 1,527 hits. The Red Sox, Twins, Angels and Yankees are all in the top seven. As a matter of fact, the Cardinals, Astros and Giants are in the top 10 as well. The only team that is likely to be going to the playoffs that is worse than the A's in this category is Los Angeles, which is ranked 24th. You can debate the merits of this stat all you want, but it's out there and we have to live with the constant frustration of this tease.
As Jerry Seinfeld might say, "See, the A's know how to put runners in scoring position, they just don't how to bring the runners in. And really, that's the most important part of offensive baseball is bringing the runners in."
Second, it's well-documented how much the A's vaunted staff has struggled this September, with ERAs more fitting of a beer-league softball pitcher than our Big Three. But they're getting a one-time, one-shot chance at redemption. If they don't come through, there is a chance that we might not see the current version of The Big Three in an A's uniform ever again. There has been plenty of speculation that Zito might be traded this offseason, and who knows how Billy might react if the pitchers do continue their struggles?
The other part of the second variable is how will Colon, Escobar and Washburn react to the Scioscia decision to go to a four-man rotation so early? Washburn didn't seem to like it (4 IP, 9 H, 2 BB and 5 ER). Lackey didn't seem to like it much either (4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 BB and 5 ER). Colon and Escobar might react differently, but right now it isn't looking good.
There are other crucial variables, such as the bullpens (remember, Harden will be available out of the pen if necessary), how much momentum the A's might gain after yesterday's dramatic win, homefield advantage, but to me, this series and the A's 2004 season will be decided based on the variables listed above.
(I added a poll below-click on entry link, so feel free to sound off).
What do you think is the biggest key to this A's-Angels series?
This poll is closed
A's hitting with RISP
A's-Angels Pen Matchup
The Big Three's Rebound
Scioscia's Decision to go to a Four-Man Rotation