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A’s go 2-0 up

by Matt Smith

2-0 up against the Yankees in 2001 and 2-0 up against the Red Sox in 2003. A’s fans know all to well what happened on those two occasions, so no one in Oakland is going to be looking to the ALCS just yet. Still, the A’s couldn’t have dreamed for a better start heading back to their home patch. A 5-2 victory puts them in pole position to finally take the next step.

No one needs to tell Torii Hunter that he made a bad mistake. Diving full length for a ball he never looked like reaching was an error of judgement, the sort of thing you just do not expect from such a great outfielder. Mark Kotsay may have looked short of breath sitting on the bench following his inside the park home run, but it was the Twins who really had the air taken out of them on that play.

The Twins rally in the ninth ultimately failed to produce any runs so they will have to regroup and find a way to get back into the series. Every baseball fan knows that turning a 2-0 deficit into a 2-1 deficit can completely change the complexion of a five game series. Pulling yourself away from the brink helps to swing the momentum back in your favour and the Twins could just as easily find themselves heading back to Minnesota all square and with home field advantage in the decider. These two teams are very evenly matched, so it could still go either way.

Is it a foregone conclusion that the winner of the series will have to play the Yankees next? Not quite, but 2-0 would be a very deep hole to climb out of for a team who have been on a downward curve for a couple of months now. As with the A’s-Twins series, one start could turn every thing around. Should Justin Verlander find his pre-All Star break form tonight, the Tigers will head home full of confidence.

As for the National league, no surprises that Pujols and Carpenter were central to the Cards jumping out to a 1-0 lead in their series with the Padres; however I get the feeling that their future will be determined by how much help they get from the supporting players. Meanwhile, John Maine is pitching his third inning as I type this post having replaced the injured El Duque. What a great story it would be if he could get the win.

Random thoughts:

  • Sacking your manager is currently the height of fashion it seems. Buck Showalter has joined the ever-growing list today. Even my football team, Norwich City, has joined in on the act by ditching Nigel Worthington (not before time it has to be said). Meanwhile, Phil Garner “bucks” the trend by bagging himself a year-long extension from the Astros. Imagine what his job security would be like if he worked out how to manage a successful club in the first half of the season rather than just the second.
  • The A’s Eric Chavez has been playing while hurt for most of the season. It hasn’t affected his gold glove calibre defense, but Chavy has failed to record a hit in the series so far. His at-bats in the second and eighth innings in particular were disappointing. Take a look at the enhanced gameday footage of those two at-bats on MLB.com and you will see Chavy striking out chasing a couple of high fastballs. It’s a great example of what this enhanced gameday system can show you: the way pitchers set-up a batter during an at-bat. I’m sure Joe Mauer should take some credit for the pitch selection and so long as Chavy fails to lay off that pitch, the opposition are going to keep throwing it. Much easier said than done though.
  • Finally we have some new MLB.TV advert breaks! I’m no Tom Petty fan at the best of times, but hearing him play the same bit of the same song virtually every half-inning (with as much enthusiasm as Gary Neville displays during the national anthem) drove me crazy. Having said that, how long will it be before I want to smack Tommy Lasorda? I’m very close already, but the A’s good play has put me in a good mood. If the Dodgers beat us in the World Series, I’m probably going to have to invest in a new monitor.

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