2012 ALDS: 9 Reasons Oakland Athletics Fans Have No Reason to Panic

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIOctober 6, 2012

2012 ALDS: 9 Reasons Oakland Athletics Fans Have No Reason to Panic

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    The Detroit Tigers took Game 1 of the 2012 ALDS, beating the Oakland Athletics 3-1. Though the team is down one game in a five-game series, there's no reason for worry—yet.

    The game opened up with excitement as leadoff batter Coco Crisp hit a home run against Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

    However, Verlander regained composure as the game progressed, striking out 11 A's batters along the way. Jose Valverde came in for the save.

    It was a pitching duel—one decided by defense.

    Though the A's didn't hit particularly well, there are still plenty of positive takeaways from the Oct. 6 ALDS opener.

    Here are nine reasons A's fans should remain calm.

It's a 5-Game Series

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    The Oct. 6 game is just one game.

    The Oakland A's have five games to get the job done. Therefore, there's no point in stressing out after just one game.

    Best-case scenario: The A's sweep the next three games, moving on to the ALCS. They would end up playing two games at home, advancing in front of their hometown crowd. Furthermore, they wouldn't have to see Justin Verlander again until 2013 (unless the Tigers, with backs against the wall, pitch Verlander on three days rest).

    Worst-case scenario: Well, that involves the A's losing.

    Second worst-case scenario: Even if Oakland loses Game 2, it returns home for all three remaining games.

    In their last two home series of the season, they swept the competition. They haven't lost a series since Saturday, Sept. 22. In 10 series throughout September and October, the A's only lost three of them.

    There's still plenty of time left.

It's Justin Verlander

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    How upset can you really be over a 3-1 loss to Justin Verlander? It's not like he's one of the best pitchers in all of baseball or anything.

    Except that he is.

    Sure, the A's struck out 11 times at the hands of Verlander, but that should have been expected. Verlander has the most strikeouts in Major League Baseball, and the A's have struck out the most times in the American League as a team.

    But a few positive things happened.

    Coco Crisp hit a home run off him. Granted, it was the lone run of the game, but the pitch was a mistake—a ball he left hanging that Crisp made him pay for. What does this mean?

    Verlander is human. He makes mistakes.

    Second, and most important, Oakland hitters worked his pitch count. Many batters worked Verlander for six, seven, eight or more pitches.

    That's somewhat effective.

    At the end of the day, it's Justin Verlander.

The Power Was There

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    Coco Crisp led the game off with a home run. Josh Donaldson hit a ball nearly 410 feet to dead-center field. In Oakland, that would have been gone.

    Brandon Moss nearly tied the game with a two-run home run. He just missed clearing the fence. Most stadiums elsewhere, that would have been a dinger. In fact, had it been a day game, the ball would have cleared the wall.

    The team's power hasn't magically disappeared in one game. It's still there.

    The A's just couldn't quite get more than one over in Detroit at night against Justin Verlander.

One More Game in Detroit, Then a Return Home

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    Game 1 and 2 are in Detroit. Then the A's return home.

    On the road, the A's won 54 percent of their games. At home, that number rises to nearly 62 percent.

    Since the All-Star break, Oakland is 26-11 at home. Clearly, it loves O.Co Coliseum.

    There are no overwhelming chants of "MVP" for Miguel Cabrera that apply pressure. The foul territory should prove in favor of the Athletics, and Verlander doesn't get any hometown credit for pitches outside the strike zone.

Jarrod Parker Nearly Matched Verlander

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    Justin Verlander threw 131 pitches in seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits.

    Jarrod Parker threw much less, pitching effectively in 6.1 innings. Parker gave up seven hits and allowed two earned runs.

    Parker struck out five and walked one (0.20 walks per strikeout). Verlander struck out 11 and walked four (0.36 walks per strikeout).

    Each gave up just one home run.

    The major difference in the two pitchers' games was Parker's one costly error which allowed a run.

    Here's one thing to keep in mind: Parker pitched effectively for two-thirds of the game, allowing just two earned runs in the first playoff game of his career. Not only that, he was handed the ball for Game 1.

    Pretty good considering the amount of nerves the 23-year-old should have had.

The Rest of the Tigers Rotation Gets Easier

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    Justin Verlander is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate. After that, though, the Tigers rotation is much less daunting.

    In Game 2, the A's will square off against Doug Fister. Fister is 10-10 this season with a 3.45 ERA. In his last start of the season, he lasted four innings, giving up seven hits and three runs. Detroit lost last time Fister pitched against the A's.

    Max Scherzer likely will pitch at some point. He's 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA. He too only made it four innings in his last start. Against the A's in 2012, he's been decent. He's 1-0 in 8.1 innings over two starts and has a 3.24 ERA.

    The other potential starters include: Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59 ERA), Anibal Sanchez (4-6, 3.74 ERA) and Drew Smyly (4-3, 3.99 ERA).

    Good pitchers, but Justin Verlander they are not.

Fielding Was an Issue...Should Be Cleaned Up

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    Quintin Berry hit a dribbler toward first base. With his dangerous speed, there was little time for first baseman Brandon Moss to cleanly field the ball then get to the bag.

    So Parker went for it.

    He would have gotten Berry out too, had Moss been there. But Moss, who was charging hard to make a play, couldn't recover in enough time to divert his momentum back toward first.

    Parker thought he was there and attempted to flip the invisible defender the ball.

    One error led to one run.

    Without it, Oakland could have still lost 2-1. Anything could have happened, really.

    Of course, for a young, rookie pitcher, the costly error may have changed the entire game, shaking Parker's confidence just enough to have an effect.

    Josh Donaldson had a tough play at third. Not to mention a couple of near errors at second base as well. If the defense is cleaned up, we could have seen a much different outcome.

The Best Tigers Hitters Were Held in Check

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    Here's the most important thing to remember after Game 1: The most dangerous hitters in the Tigers lineup did next to nothing.

    Austin Jackson went 1-for-4, drove in none and left three runners on base.

    Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera went hitless in three at-bats. Prince Fielder was 0-for-4. Delmon Young did not record a hit, and neither did Jhonny Peralta.

    In fact, Alex Avila and Quintin Berry did most of the damage.

    If A's starters can continue this lockdown of Jackson, Cabrera and Fielder, they'll be in good shape for victories. 

Pat Neshek Reminds Us, It's Just a Game

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    Why shouldn't you, a fan, stress out, worry or panic about a baseball game?

    Because it's just that—a silly game.

    In the grand scheme of life, it's not important. There are 162 of them (not including playoffs) every single year. Every season, fans are treated to playoff baseball, whether their team is in it or not.

    Luckily, the A's are in it this year.

    Unfortunately, they lost Game 1 of a five-game series. But reliever Pat Neshek reminded the world that there are more important things to consider in life, win or lose a baseball game.

    Neshek lost his firstborn child, less than 24 hours after Gehrig John Neshek was born. Yet, he still mustered up the courage and strength to not only join the team Saturday night, but to be the first reliever called to duty.

    And he did so with such grace.

    It was emotional to watch, but it serves as a reminder: Baseball isn't the end-all, be-all. It's a game that brings us together (teams and fans) while temporarily distracting (in a good way) from life's more important and stressful events.

    Neshek's perseverance in the face of tragedy is indicative of Oakland's 2012 season.