By virtue of their 3-0 loss on Friday to the Detroit Tigers, the A's are on the brink of being swept out of the postseason. The general feeling was that this would be a highly competitive American League Championship Series. But the Tigers' level of play has not allowed for that development. And the Athletics have not yet been able to rise to that level.
Approaching Game 4 of the ALCS on Saturday, the A's are back to the oldest mantra in the baseball book -- one game at a time. This was what the Boston Red Sox kept saying when they were down, 3-0, to the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Of course, this was the only time in postseason baseball history that somebody climbed out of a three-game hole. But it is the only life raft in the neighborhood to which the Athletics can cling.
"Well, I think the approach has always been just one game," A's manager Ken Macha said after Friday's loss. "I mean, that's what you look at. [An] encouraging thing coming out of this game is Rich Harden threw the ball very well except for a little rust there in the first two innings, and I kind of like the four guys we're going to send out there.
"[Game 4 starter] Dan Haren has pitched a lot of good games for us this year, and then we'll go ahead and we have four good starters lined up. You can't give up, and our guys aren't going to do that. They're going to go out and play.
"My friend over there in Boston, [manager Terry] Francona, they were in the same position and they wound up doing it. So it's not an impossible task. You've just got to do that one game at a time."
Haren, a 14-game winner for Oakland in the regular season, and a winner in his Division Series start against Minnesota, certainly gives the A's reason for hope.
But Detroit's Game 4 starter, Jeremy Bonderman, gives the Tigers the same commodity. He was also a 14-game winner and he is coming off an even more impressive Division Series performance, winning the clincher for the Tigers with 8 1/3 superlative innings against the Yankees.
As much as the A's have had good reason to like their starting pitching, it has been the Tigers who have dominated in that area through the AL Championship Series' first three games. The Tigers have been no worse than effective on the mound, but at times they have been absolutely brilliant.
Oakland will have to answer, starting immediately, with some dominant pitching of its own, or some vastly improved approaches against the Tigers' pitching, or, if at all possible, improvements in both areas.
The basic reason that this Series has not been as competitive as expected, is that Detroit pitching has overmatched Oakland hitting. The A's have been able to generate only six runs in three games.
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In its imbalance through three games, this Series has become a little too typical of the 2006 postseason to date. We have not yet witnessed the kind of drama you hope to get out of October baseball. Certainly, there has been plenty of in-game drama, but from the larger, standpoint of the various series, no, not really.
None of the Division Series went the distance and two of them were sweeps, one of which, ironically or not, was by Oakland, over Minnesota. The October dream is the final, deciding game, in which both teams face the options clearly -- elimination or advancement. We simply haven't had that yet. And this AL Championship Series, which looked going in like a possibility, has been decidedly one-sided.
The Detroit Tigers have done exactly what they hoped to do in this ALCS. The question now is whether the Oakland Athletics, at the brink of October elimination, can make this a series, and, for that matter an event containing at least a measure of the requisite October drama.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.