If the Oakland Athletics obtain a postseason berth as the Wild Card, Jarrod Parker should be the guy to pitch in a one-game playoff. He's the clear best option.
If the A's stick to the order, it's Dan Straily.
However, the season ends on Wednesday, Oct. 3 with the elimination game scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5. The extra day off allows Oakland an opportunity to use Tommy Milone or Parker in the do-or-die situation as well.
Let's look at everyone else though, to clarify why it should be Parker.
There is a multitude of reasons Blackley should not be given the ball for a one-game playoff.
If he's the man, Blackley would be pitching with two days off in between starts. He's also just a spot-starter, filling in now for Brett Anderson (injured).
Lastly, he's the least consistent pitcher in the rotation right now.
Blackley is 5-4 as a starter with an ERA over 4.00. He has allowed 75 hits and 50 runs in just 79.1 innings. In two starts before Oct. 2, he didn't make it past the second inning in either game, allowing a combined eight earned runs.
Regardless, it's a moot point—with not enough rest, Blackley is not an option.
Simply put, Straily hasn't pitched enough yet to be put into a situation with this much importance.
In seven starts, he's 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA.
So far in September though, he has been quite hit or miss. He made it to 6.2 innings in two games but could not make it out of the fifth inning in the other two starts; 11 home runs have been hit off Straily in his seven starts too.
Straily is an effective rookie.
Again though, he has not been consistent enough to earn the ball in the Wild Card game.
Griffin has been one of the most underrated and dazzling young pitchers of the 2012 MLB season.
In fact, he won his first six decisions and is currently 7-1.
Furthermore, his ERA has never been above 3.00. He gives up few home runs and has struck out more batters than he has walked in every start.
His issue heading toward the end of the season is consistency. In June and July, he pitched six or seven innings each start. Lately though, he has pitched as much as eight innings and as few as five.
Even so, Griffin isn't an option either.
On paper he looks like a fantastic choice to lead the A's into postseason. But he's scheduled to start the season-ending game on Oct. 3 against the Rangers.
There's no way he pitches again two days later, not even out of the pen.
According to Susan Slusser of SFGate.com, if Anderson feels healthy after an Oct. 1 throwing session, he may be available for the Oct. 5 Wild Card game.
There's no doubt, Anderson is one of their—if not the—best options. Though he does not have any playoff experience, his career as a whole should hypothetically prepare him better for this type of situation.
Still, the A's should take no chances.
He's so fresh off an injury, a one-game elimination match is not the place to hope he's at 100 percent. Oakland must start a "no doubt about it" pitcher.
Right now, there's doubt when it comes to Anderson's health.
That should make him a no go.
Milone co-leads the A's in wins with 13—of course, he's tied with Parker. Milone has struck out 137 batters and, quite impressively, he has only walked 36 batters all season.
In 185.1 innings, he has only given up 24 home runs too.
Milone is very effective at home.
He's 7-4 with a 2.74 ERA with only 89 hits, 30 earned runs and six home runs given up. Outside of Oakland, he's 6-6 with a 4.83 ERA and 118 hits, 49 earned runs and 18 home runs allowed.
Who are you giving the ball to?
Starting six times in September, Milone is 2-1 but the team is 5-1. One of those wins was a 3-2 victory against the Baltimore Orioles, who the A's would play in a one-game playoff if the season ended on Wednesday.
Milone is a quality option.
Parker has as many starts in September and October as Milone. Parker is 4-1; the team is 4-2.
Parker—like Milone—beat the Orioles too (more effectively at that).
While Milone has pitched an average of five innings per start in September, Parker has averaged seven—he has the same effectiveness, with longer outings.
That alone might be the tiebreaker.
In the last month, Parker has more innings pitched, a better record and a lower ERA than Milone.
Here's the kicker: In just 10 innings less, Parker has a comparable win-loss record and a lower ERA. He has also given up 50 hits less and allowed just 11—11—home runs all season.
Oh, and he has more strikeouts.
The A's really could hand the ball to either Milone or Parker and it likely wouldn't matter. Both have been consistently effective throughout the year.
This is a great dilemma to have.
They may have the same record, but Parker is statistically better than Milone in nearly every category and more importantly, he's riding into the postseason with confidence and momentum from beating the Rangers to earn a Wild Card berth.
Here's the best idea: Win the AL West and the pressure of winning one elimination game is gone.