One of the arguments being used to support Miguel Cabrera’s candidacy for the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award centers around the fact that his Detroit Tigers are making the playoffs this year, while his main competitor, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, will see his season end at the conclusion of the regular season. To me, this argument gives more credence to Trout’s cause than Cabrera’s because it means that while the Tigers third baseman plays the majority of his games against the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox; the Angels center fielder is playing more games against the superior competition of the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. Oh, and Los Angeles has a better record than Detroit, anyway.
Such an argument might not have worked in Trout’s favor at the beginning of the year, when no one considered that the A’s might eventually be competing not only for the Wild Card with the Angels, but also the division championship with the Rangers. And yet, after 161 games, Oakland has the exact same record as Texas, with one final regular season game between the two teams scheduled for today.
This exciting prospect was made possible by last night’s come-from-behind victory for the Athletics in front of 30,000 people at the Oakland Coliseum. Starting pitcher Travis Blackley, who only five days ago was pulled from a game against the very same Rangers team after giving up five runs in a single inning, allowed only one run on three hits and two walks over six innings, striking out five on Tuesday night.
Texas got their only run of the game on a Josh Hamilton double in the third inning that knocked in Ian Kinsler. The A’s responded in the home half of the fifth with Derek Norris hitting a single to right field with runners on second and third. Both Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss came in to score when Nelson Cruz bobbled the ball before throwing it back in to the infield. The next inning, Jonny Gomes, who has been used perfectly this season by manager Bob Melvin, hit a solo home run for insurance.
While the offense came up with the runs, the real story of the night – perhaps the real story of the season – was Oakland’s bullpen who shut down the frightening offense of the Rangers like they were jarring a rather violent jam. In addition to shutdown innings from Sean Doolittle (More like Doomore, amirite?) and Ryan Cook (More like Ryan Master Chef, amirite?), Grant Balfour (more like Strithree, amirite?) closed out the ninth inning for the fourth game in a row, inducing a ground out to second and striking out two. The three batters he faced to end the game: Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.
Which brings us to this afternoon, 3:35 PM ET to be specific, when Ryan “Demopster” Dempster takes the mound for Texas against A.J. Griffin for the Athletics. A win for Oakland would not only represent one of the biggest upsets of the season, it would also mean that the Rangers would have to win a one game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles or New York Yankees to advance in the 2012 post season, a startling proposition given where the team was for the first two thirds of the season. If Texas wins, tvice versa, the A’s get one chance to advance against whoever doesn’t emerge as the American League East champions.
Now, if only baseball was more exciting.
And The Rest
The St. Louis Cardinals, despite losing once again to the Cincinnati Reds, have finally clinched the final playoff spot in the National League. They’ll play the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card game on Friday. [Viva El Birdos]
That’s because the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the San Francisco Giants, due to some questionable managing tactics by Don Mattingly. [Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness]
Meanwhile, in the American League East, the New York Yankees won an extra innings walk off against the Boston Red Sox thanks (twice) to Raul Ibanez. [Pinstriped Bible]
The Yankees win maintained their one game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays last night to ensure that tonight’s finale is meaningful. [Camden Chat]
The Rays loss last night was through no fault of starting pitcher James Shields, who was amazing. [MLB.com]
The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs game last night marked the first time in 50 years that two 100-loss teams faced each other. Congratulations, I guess. [Huffington Post]
Television analyst and former pitcher David Cone referred to Ichiro’s bat as a chop stick on Tuesday night. [The Big Lead]
Adam Greenberg struck out on three pitches in his first, and only official Major League at bat. [Baseball Nation]
And you thought this season couldn’t get any worse for Bobby Valentine. [SB Nation Boston]
Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown watch. [Baseball Musings]
The already hurting Max Scherzer suffered an ankle injury while celebrating the Detroit Tigers clinching the division on Monday night. [Big League Stew]
If the New York Mets want David Wright to stay, does that mean that they’d consider shopping R.A. Dickey? [ESPN New York]
A particularly endearing unit of measurement is set to go on hiatus. [Old Time Family Baseball]
A lack of leadership continues to be referenced as something to fix in Toronto with the Blue Jays. [Toronto Sun]
The essential Cleveland manager rant. [Walk Like A Sabermetrician]
Ben Sheets will start the final game of the season for the Atlanta Braves and then retire. [MLB Trade Rumors]
Glen DuPaul continues his look into how predictive FIP is. [The Hardball Times]
The Baseball Prospectus end of season awards. [Baseball Prospectus]