Predicting the 6 Biggest Goats/Heroes of This Week's MLB Playoff Games
After just four days of the 2012 MLB playoffs, we have already seen performances that were both enlightening and disappointing.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo and his seven-inning, one-hit performance on Sunday night against the San Francisco has his Reds on the brink of advancing to the NLCS. Madison Bumgarner, on the other hand, continued his late-season swoon, unable to work out of the fifth inning.
New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia nearly worked a complete game in dominating the Baltimore Orioles, while O's closer Jim Johnson gave up five runs in one-third of an inning to give the Yankees a 7-2 victory.
Two of the bats the Giants are counting on this postseason have both been silent thus far. Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence are a combined 0-for-playoffs.
As we patiently await the start of games later on today and for the rest of the week, we'll take a look at possible goats/heroes, who could surprise and who could disappoint.
1. Oakland Athletics Bullpen: Goat
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The Oakland Athletics bullpen was the second-stingiest in the American League during the regular season with a 2.94 ERA. That bullpen was anything but stingy in Sunday's game with the Detroit Tigers.
Rookie Tommy Milone did his part, holding the Tigers to one run on five hits in six innings. However, the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour gave up four runs in 2.2 innings to allow the Tigers to take a 2-0 series lead back to O.co Coliseum.
It's complete guess as to just how important experience means during the playoffs. While rookie Milone didn't wilt under the pressure, Doolittle and Cook both came unglued. The veteran Balfour, who had made appearances in three prior postseasons, didn't come through, either, so the youth/veteran theory was a wash in Game 2.
Whatever the case, another performance like that in Game 3 will have the A's out on the golf course far earlier than they expected.
2. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: Goat
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The New York Yankees took Game 1 of the ALDS with a 7-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, and superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez had nothing to do with the win.
Rodriguez struck out three times in an 0-for-4 performance, leaving four runners stranded in the process.
Rodriguez is now hitting .140 in his last 12 playoff games dating back to 2010. Look for that trend to continue.
3. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals: Hero
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Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper got his first postseason game out of the way, and now that the newness has worn off, look for the teenager to break out.
Harper has a favorable matchup on Monday. Harper homered off Game 2 starter Jaime Garcia on Aug. 30 and he excelled against the Cardinals pitching staff all year, hitting .429 with two homers and six RBI in seven games.
Harper will make noise during these playoffs, and it could come at the expense of the Cardinals.
4. Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants: Goat
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On Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants will turn to starter Ryan Vogelsong to stem the Red tide and avoid a quick elimination from the 2012 MLB playoffs.
Vogelsong will not be the right guy to turn to.
A 14-game winner during the regular season, Vogelsong struggled through much of the second half before turning in three solid starts at the end of the regular season.
However, Great American Ballpark hasn't been especially kind to Vogelsong—a 4.57 ERA in six overall appearances, two of them starts. In fact, Vogelsong hasn't performed exceptionally well at hitter-friendly parks in general.
Look for the Reds to continue their roll on Tuesday at Vogelsong's expense.
5. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees: Hero
On Monday night, 40-year-old Andy Pettitte will have the opportunity to show everyone exactly why he decided on a comeback.
Pettitte is the all-time MLB leader in postseason wins, and he returns to the stage where he has excelled on so many occasions in the past.
Look for Pettitte to be on his game against the Orioles. This is the moment he's been waiting for since announcing his return earlier this season.
6. Washington Nationals Bullpen: Hero
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The Washington Nationals will look to take a 2-0 series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
Nationals Game 2 starter Jordan Zimmermann has not enjoyed any success against the Cardinals in his career—an 0-2 record and 9.12 ERA in five starts.
Zimmermann will be thanking his bullpen for bailing him out, however.
The Nats bullpen pitched in with four scoreless innings on Sunday, and they could be called upon early on Monday as well.
A shut-down effort could be repeated.