Optimistic stat-geeks are frantically noting the A's relative success over the Tigers in day games. Pessimistic stat-geeks are pointing out that teams who lose the first two games at home have success rates that range from losing in 7 games to giving up and forfeiting the last two games. Weather geeks are checking the Doppler patterns out of Detroit and are reporting "an awful lot of green". What we all have in common is that we want a game today and we want an A's win. That is, we need an A's win, because Boston-like 3-0 deficit comebacks happen about once every forever. First-pitch today is scheduled for exactly 1:30pm-ish, and until then, here are a few Nicopinions to chew on as we await Game 3 from a cold and wet motor city...
I thought it was interesting to hear Ken Macha say he hoped to get 5 innings out of Harden, when Harden's pitch limit reportedly is 100-105. I would be seriously disappointed not to get 6+ innings out of that, if Harden is at all on his game (and let's face it, down 2-0 the A's hopes in the ALCS rest largely on Harden not emulating his performances against the Angels and a bunch of guys named Scrubby McInstructional League).
If the A's are going to get back in the ALCS and earn a trip back to Oakland, let's set our sights higher than 5 innings. If we only get 5 innings out of Harden, he's laboring and wobbling at 20+ pitches/inning and it's probably time to find creative ways to say, "Well it was still a great season..." Duchscherer's availability is "iffy" following neck spasms (he was unavailable in Game 2). Bottom line: I'm looking for a lot more than 5 innings out of Rich Harden today, if the A's are going to be serious about playing in the 2006 World Series.
For all the talk about Kielty getting some ABs against the lefty starters, an idea whose popularity peaked right around Kotsay's second DP of the night in Game 1, defense has been important in this series, just as the A's brass felt it would be. Chavy's two missed balls made significant impacts on the starting pitching performances, Jimenez has made as many errors in two games as Ellis made all season. As Chavez pointed out, it would hard to ask a team to score the number of runs it would have taken to win the first two games. But with perfect defense, the A's would have had a shot each night. Macha has indicated the A's will continue to employ a lineup that focuses on defense, especially in the outfield now that the games are in spacious Comerica Park. I really want Kielty's bat in there, but I think the A's are probably right on this one. Defense wins games--or loses them--as much, or more, than hitting does.
What do you suppose is the worst, stupidest, least defensible way to pitch Placido Polanco? Fastballs right down the middle, one after the other? Tell him what's coming, pitch and location both, and throw exactly what you promise every time? Whatever it is, try it. The guy is now hitting exactly 1.023 against the A's, and that's not even statistically possible yet he's doing it. So it's time for some reverse psychology. Find the absolute stupidest approach possible and try it. What's he going to do, go 4 for 3? Probably.