The Oakland Athletics ran into some of the best baseball the Cleveland Indians will play all season long, in the last season, thus losing two of three and killing all of the momentum from a big upset against the Angels.
Now, the Athletics will host a three-game series with the 9-6 Chicago White Sox. Here are 5 things that the A's need if they are going to take two games out of three from the White Sox or even pull off the sweep.
Find a Way to Hit Ace Pitching
They are aces for a reason. They are put at the top of the rotation for a reason. They are the guys that start playoff games on three days of rest for a reason. Their stuff is up there with the best in the MLB, and they make the proverbial big bucks simply because they keep hitters at bay consistently.
They have done just that against the A's. Felix Hernandez started against the A's with the Seattle Mariners on March 28th and pitched eight innings, holding the A's to five hits and one run. Fellow division foe Jered Weaver of the Angels had a 6.2 inning shutout effort against the A's on April 16th, in which the A's were again held to five hits off of an ace.
Even ace pitchers that are not so familiar with Oakland's lineup are having success. Ubaldo Jimenez for the Cleveland Indians pitched six innings and gave up two runs and only six hits on April 20th.
However, the A's have showed an ability to hit ace pitching from time-to-time. In the April 7th game against the Mariners, Oakland pounded Hernandez, getting eight hits and scoring six runs, all of them earned in only 6.1 innings.
That being said, if the A's are going to beat the White Sox, Oakland needs to start a well-timed turnaround today with a match-up against Jake Peavy. Peavy will enter the game with a 2.75 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP, while holding opponents to a .200 batting average in his three starts. Peavy is also 2-0.
Get the Good Bartolo Colon, Definitely Not the Bad
Before going forward, I don't want to make it seem like Colon has been anything less than good for the A's this season. By my account, he has three good starts and one bad one. April 7th against the Mariners was a rough day, giving up 10 hits and seven earned runs in 4.1 innings. Outside of that, he has given up 10 hits and one earned run in 23 innings and has improved to a 3-1 record.
Having the bad Bartolo Colon rear his ugly head is not an option for the A's in this series, especially since he is pitching against Peavy. More importantly, he is appearing in the series opening game.
What do you think the A's will be able to do against the White Sox in this three-game series?
Work Off of the Opening Game Result the Right Way, Good or Bad
The A's have done a good job of this in spots, and a bad job in spots. To put it in other words, the A's can win a series after losing the opening game, like it did against the Angels. The A's lost that series opener 6-0, then swept the next three by a combined score of 15-5.
The A's can also let a series-opening loss affect their psyche for the rest of the series, as it did in the season opener against the Mariners. After dropping that extra-innings decision in Japan, the A's were only able to win one of the following three, including losing both of the games played in Oakland.
The A's also can have difficulty working off a series-opening win, as it showed in its second series against the Mariners. Oakland won the first game 4-0 off of a visit from the good Bartolo Colon, then lost the next two 4-0 and 5-3.
Then, in yet another situation, the A's can take a series-opening win and ride it through an entire series like it did against the Kansas City Royals. After winning the first game 1-0, the A's would not be denied in the series finale, taking an extra-inning win via a walk-off HBP 5-4.
In short, the A's have been all over the place with momentum. They have shown ability to take momentum away from their opponents after a setback, fail to take it away after surrendering it, establish momentum early and let it slip through their fingers. No matter what happens in the first game, the A's have to be able to go forward positively.
Get RHP Jarrod Parker's Mind Right
Parker is making his first major league appearance of the 2012 season in the Wednesday game of this series, and is scheduled to get the start. I'm no manager, and I will not pretend to be (except in my Manny Ramirez lineup columns, in which I am the greatest manager on the planet: just kidding).
The real manager in Oakland, Bob Melvin, needs to draw his A-game out of him for this potentially series-deciding start. The White Sox have far too good of a lineup to trot a substandard start to the mound.
A.J. Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko will all hammer Parker into oblivion if given the opportunity. While we hope this is not the case, but if Parker is unable to execute this stuff in the third game...
Try To Save the Best Relievers for Game Three
Before going further, let me make clear that if the A's find themselves up only a run or two and are in desperate need of a clutch performance to get a win, by all means, put the top guys out there and do your best to have them ready for the season finale.
But, if at all possible, the A's need to try and keep the best relievers ready and able to pitch in the season finale, since Parker is most likely to need help. Colon has been solid for most of his starts this season and has shown some flashes of potential. We don't know much about Parker, and it would be in the best interest for the A's if the best relievers were ready to bail him out, if he needs it.
If Parker becomes a pleasant surprise and does not need the assistance of the best relievers Oakland has to offer, that's no problem. The A's will surely need them at some point in a challenging road series with the Orioles.