MLB Playoffs 2012: What Trailing Teams Must Do to Rally in Division Series

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 07: Matt Holliday #7 of the St Louis Cardinals prepares to bat in the fifth inning against  the Washington Nationals during Game One of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 7, 2012 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Hope is a wonderful thing, especially in sports, but it can also be a dangerous thing. Looking at the teams currently trailing in their respective Division Series, hope is what gets their fans from the end of one game to the next. 

For the players, they know that things are much more complicated and nuanced than just hoping for things to turnaround. 

Since we have seen all four Division Series complete at least one game, we can make an assessment of what happened in those games and offer opinions on what must be done for the four teams trailing to get back into the swing of things before it's too late. 

Without further ado, here are the things that will save the four teams searching for answers after this weekend. 


Oakland A's Trail Detroit Tigers, 2-0

I think the biggest thing the A's have going for them right now is they get to head back to Oakland for the final three games of the series, if it happens to go that long. 

The A's posted a 50-31 home record in 2012, while the Tigers were tied with St. Louis for the worst road record among playoff teams (38-43). 

In addition to some home cooking, the A's really need to start putting the bat on the ball with some measure of consistency. We all know that strikeouts are a huge part of their game, but 23 in two games is going to leave you in a 2-0 hole. 

Even if they keep racking up strikeouts, as long as they are able to get something out of Brandon Moss (four strikeouts in seven at-bats) and Josh Reddick (six strikeouts in seven at-bats), they will be much better off. 

The pitching has been, unsurprisingly, fine. They just need to find a balance with the offense so they don't have to be so precise on the mound every inning. 


Baltimore Orioles Trail New York Yankees, 1-0

The Orioles have to be kicking themselves after Game 1, because the Yankees gave them plenty of chances to at least take the lead by running themselves out of innings. 

Since there is no point dwelling on what could have been, the Orioles have to look at what is. They are down, but far from out of this series. They have to contend with Andy Pettitte in Game 2, while sending Wei-Yin Chen to the mound. 

The first thing they need to see is how Chen looks. His month-by-month ERA seems to indicate that either the league has caught up to him or he is fatigued, or both. He posted a 3.44 ERA in July, it went up to 4.40 in August and 5.90 in September. 

The other area where the Orioles have to shine in this game is in the power department. Their lineup is not built on finesse. They don't have a lot of guys who are going to work the count and get on base. They want to bash the ball as much as they can until the game is over. 

They hit 214 home runs, second behind the Yankees in MLB. They only had two extra-base hits on Sunday against CC Sabathia. 

Sabathia held them in check on Sunday, which was not completely unexpected. He is, after all, really, really good. 

Pettitte is the great wild card for the Yankees. He made three starts at the end of the year after missing two months with a broken ankle. If he can be the No. 2 starter the Yankees are looking for behind Sabathia, they will suddenly have a much more formidable rotation in the playoffs. 


St. Louis Cardinals Trail Washington Nationals, 1-0

It appears that the Cardinals are going to continue to be as frustrating to watch in the postseason as they were in the regular season. 

Gio Gonzalez gave the Cardinals every opportunity to win Game 1, but they couldn't capitalize on anything. Their offense continues to be a problem. They finished 15th in baseball with 339 runs scored after the All-Star break, a far cry from when they led the NL before the break. 

It's surprising because the talent is still there that made them so great early. Carlos Beltran is a mess right now, but Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and David Freese are still there. 

Another issue they have is in the bullpen. It has been a problem area for them all season, but could be even worse in the postseason if their starters don't go deep into games. 

Aside from Edward Mujica and Jason Motte, there aren't a lot of arms that Mike Matheny can trust to get three outs. Matheny tried to play matchups on Sunday with Marc Rzepczynski against Chad Tracy before Davey Johnson pulled the old switcheroo and sent Tyler Moore up to the plate. 

But the biggest concern to me for the Cardinals would be the offense. They need to start hitting like they are capable of doing if they want to repeat as World Series champions. 


San Francisco Giants Trail Cincinnati Reds, 2-0

On the list of things that could go wrong with the Giants in the playoffs, virtually all of them has happened in the first two games against Cincinnati. 

The biggest knock against the Giants for years has been their inability to hit. So far, the only offense they have gotten came off the bat of Buster Posey in the sixth inning of Game 1. They did get another run in the ninth inning of that game, but that was due to Aroldis Chapman's wildness. 

Unless someone else, like Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence or Brandon Belt, is able to give Posey some support, this is going to be a quick series. 

The other problem for the Giants has been, surprisingly, starting pitching. Matt Cain wasn't terrible in Game 1, allowing just three runs in five innings, but wasn't as crisp in the zone as he usually is. 

Madison Bumgarner was terrible in Game 2, which is a far bigger concern than Cain. The Giants are built on their rotation, specifically at the top. Yet Bumgarner just looks fatigued lately. He allowed 36 hits, 13 walks, five home runs and 20 earned runs in the last month of the regular season. 

Ryan Vogelsong, who starts Game 3, has an ERA over six since August. What looked like a strength for the Giants coming into the postseason could end up being their undoing, unless Vogelsong is able to pitch like he did in the first half (2.36 ERA).