With the divisional series of the 2012 MLB Playoffs now underway, the Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals, two teams that have surprised us all year, are at an early deficit. The ability to swing momentum in such situations is extremely important, especially considering the-best-of-five format that this round takes on. These are two teams, more than any other, built to do just that.
For the A's, a comeback after already being down 2-0 would only add to the remarkable story they have given MLB fans so far this season. With how storied their campaign has been, consistently winning with a team that not many thought they could, would anyone be surprised if they once again made headlines in coming back to beat the Tigers in the ALDS?
The next two projected starting pitchers for the A's, Brett Anderson and AJ Griffin, were a combined 11-3 during the regular season. While their rotation lacks the big superstar name that everyone looks for, they instead have a group of several pitchers that have consistently gotten the job done all year long. Squaring off against the back end of the Tigers' rotation could very well get this team back in the series in a hurry.
Also in the A's favor is how reliable their bullpen has been in backing up the starting rotation. By the end of the regular season, A's relievers held a combined ERA of just 2.94, good for the fourth-best mark in the MLB. This included an impressive opponent's batting average of .209, .293 OBP and a .334 slugging percentage.
Likely topping these pitching advantages in significance is their home field advantage, as well as the momentum they entered the postseason with.
The A's will attempt their comeback from a 2-0 deficit with the remaining three games in front of a great home crowd. This is a fan base that has not forgotten what the team has done over the course of the season, likely against all odds, to give them the greatest of stories to follow. With the atmosphere that will be present in that stadium, anything is possible for the home squad.
If the aforementioned starters can get this team to a Game 5 situation, one would have to bet on the home team completing the comeback.
As for the St. Louis Cardinals, their story seems all too similar to that of their World Series Championship just one year ago. A hot finish in the last few weeks of the season earned them the National League's final playoff spot, and a win over Atlanta in the new wild card one game play-in put them in the position they are in now.
A matchup against the Washington Nationals, baseball's best team in the regular season, is no easy task, but the Cardinals are anything but out of it being down 1-0. In fact, if last season is any indication, they've got the Nationals right where they want them.
Throughout the 2012 regular season, the Cardinals may not have been overly exciting to the average fan, but they were consistent. Finishing the regular season with a team batting average of .271, and an MLB leading .338 OBP, they showed an ability to get runners in position to score. Against a deep Nationals rotation, they will need to rely on the bats more than anything.
While the pitching has left something to be desired, a surprise return from Chris Carpenter, who was expected to miss the entire 2012 season, could very well be the added boost that the Cardinals need.
Already being down 1-0 in the five-game ALDS may provide a tough situation, but this Cardinals team has shown an ability to handle any situation thrown their way. We have come to almost expect this team to surprise us, as they continued to do so this season, even after losing a player of Albert Pujols' caliber in the offseason.
Both the A's and the Cardinals could conceivably have their playoff runs ended in several days due to their early deficits. However, the way that both teams are built, having already showed the MLB their consistent production and resiliency, a comeback is never out of the question.
In the MLB playoffs, momentum is the No. 1 factor. If these two scrappy teams can swing the momentum with a win in front of their home crowds in their next game each, both series will take a completely different shape than what we have seen so far.
The Oakland A's run off three straight wins at home to capture the ALDS, while the Cardinals take the Nationals to a fifth game in Washington, also winning their series.