2012 MLB Playoffs: Power Ranking Each Team Through the First Weekend
We may just be two days into the division series, but the contenders are already taking strides toward separating themselves from the pretenders, as two teams find themselves just one game away from elimination.
Friday's action saw the game's first wild-card playoffs, and while the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles ended in triumphant fashion, they both find themselves in 1-0 deficits after their first division series matchups.
With four games on the schedule over the next two days, a lot will change by the middle of the week, and while it's too early to count anyone out just yet, the performances this weekend have spoken volumes about what is set to be a phenomenal postseason.
8. San Francisco Giants
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With ace Matt Cain taking the mound to open the NLDS, you would have had to thought the San Francisco Giants had a great shot of heading into Sunday with a 1-0 lead in the series.
Instead, the Cincinnati Reds manufactured a 5-2 victory, despite losing starter Johnny Cueto after just a handful of pitches.
The Giants sent Madison Bumgarner to the mound on Sunday, and things wouldn't end any better for them, as they mustered only one hit against Bronson Arroyo en route to a 9-0 loss and 2-0 deficit. San Francisco now faces elimination as the series heads east to Cincinnati.
7. Oakland Athletics
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Entering the postseason as one of the hottest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics set themselves up to face a Detroit Tigers team that narrowly made the playoffs after fending off the Chicago White Sox down the stretch.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander made sure the A's momentum was quickly stopped, allowing just one hit in seven innings and giving way to the bullpen to close out the series opener.
The A's had a chance to even up the series in Sunday's Game 2 matchup, but gave up four runs in the final three innings and the Tigers won in walk-off fashion, pushing Oakland to the brink of elimination.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
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After capitalizing on a number of Atlanta mistakes in MLB's first one-game wild card playoff, the St. Louis Cardinals opened up their NLDS tilt against the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
St. Louis held the Nationals offense in check for the majority of the game, but Washington ace Gio Gonzalez did his part, giving up only one hit in five innings.
The Cardinals bullpen would ultimately be the team's undoing in Game 1, as Mitchell Boggs gave up two runs in the eighth and gave way to Drew Storen to close things out for the Nationals.
5. Baltimore Orioles
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There aren't really any better stories in baseball this season than the Baltimore Orioles. The team has emerged from the depths of the AL East basement to earn a wild-card berth and beat the talented Texas Rangers in a one-game playoff.
Facing a New York Yankees team that they split the season series with in 2012, the Orioles had a great shot at taking an early lead in the series, as they entered the ninth inning of the series opener knotted at 2-2, with reliable closer Jim Johnson taking the mound.
Much to the dismay of the Baltimore faithful, the closer gave up four earned runs in the ninth, leading the way to New York's 7-2 victory and effectively eliminating any momentum the Orioles had built up to that point.
4. Washington Nationals
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Absent from the MLB playoffs for over three decades, the Washington Nationals franchise finally emerged as October contenders this season, with a talented roster of players ready to change the tides in the NL East.
A Game 1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals set an early tone for the Nationals. Still, I don't think anyone would say the series is highly in Washington's favor, as the Cards displayed just last year how far a wild-card team can go.
3. New York Yankees
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Always the perennial contender, the New York Yankees and their countless championship banners always have a target on their backs come postseason time.
With a familiar foe in the Baltimore Orioles first up in the ALDS, the Yankees have a great shot at advancing to another ALCS appearance. But they also know just how tough their competition is.
CC Sabathia sent a strong message in Game 1, earning all but one of the 27 outs for the Yankees in a 7-2 road victory in Baltimore.
The Yankees will send Andy Pettite to the mound in Game 2, looking to take a 2-0 series lead with a shot to close things out in the Bronx on Wednesday.
2. Detroit Tigers
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As mentioned, the Oakland Athletics were arguably the hottest team in baseball entering the postseason, as their ascent up the AL West standings in the season's final weeks gave the team the confidence that can propel teams deep into the postseason.
The Detroit Tigers made every effort to end that momentum this weekend, taking both games at Comerica Park before taking the series westward.
With this scenario playing out, commissioner Bud Selig will no doubt face criticism for the formatting of this year's division series, as the higher-seeded A's find themselves in a 2-0 hole before playing a game on their home turf.
1. Cincinnati Reds
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After seeing Johnny Cueto exit the series opener after just eight pitches, the Cincinnati Reds were forced to scramble a bit, as Sam LeCure, Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman combined to hold the San Francisco Giants to seven hits and two runs en route to a 5-2 victory.
Game 2 saw far fewer pitchers take to the mound for Cincinnati, as Bronson Arroyo put together masterful seven-inning, one-hit effort to shut down the Giants offense en route to a 9-0 Reds victory.
In both games the offense was paced by leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips, who has gone 5-for-10 with four RBI.
The Reds appear to be overmatching the Giants in every facet, and next throw Homer Bailey out there to close out the series in Cincinnati Tuesday night.