10/10/12 3:00 AM ET
Tight Division Series to provide action-packed day
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
There were only five total runs scored in those games, but the two apiece by the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's were enough for huge, season-saving victories, and now we have a unique, but fitting, situation on our hands for Wednesday.
Four Division Series are in full swing, and none have ended in sweeps. All eight teams are alive and kicking and set to play again Wednesday. All eight could still be alive into Thursday.
It's emblematic of how much parity there has been in Major League Baseball in 2012, and it shows how special this postseason has already been.
This is riveting theater every night, it's standing-room only, and the outcomes of each final act? They're yet to be written, let alone played out.
"These are the type of games we have played all season long," said Giants closer Sergio Romo after pitching two innings to finish off the Cincinnati Reds in 10 innings on the road, 3-2, prolonging his team's season for at least another night.
"We are a gritty and grinding team. We play for the guy next to us, not for ourselves. The greater good."
Romo could also have been speaking for the Oakland A's, who faced elimination in their AL Division Series after falling behind the Detroit Tigers, 2-0, in Comerica Park. But A's starter Brett Anderson threw six shutout innings in his return from an oblique strain, the Oakland bullpen was lights-out for three frames, Coco Crisp took a home run away from Prince Fielder with a catch for the ages and, coupled with what happened in Cincinnati, the entire Bay Area could go to sleep knowing there would be more baseball on Wednesday.
"The first inning was great, to be able to score a run and again get the fans involved and get some excitement out there," A's manager Bob Melvin said, talking about how the sellout Oakland Coliseum crowd of 37,090 buoyed his club. "I expect it to be the same tomorrow."
He's not alone. All over the four Division Series, the home stadiums will be rocking. And up and down each team's roster, the storylines are popping.
In New York, for example, the Yankees and Orioles will bring their 1-1 series to the Bronx at 7:30 p.m. ET on TBS. Both teams struggled to get there after Baltimore's win in Game 2 because of train delays. They might not have gotten great nights of sleep Monday night, but you better believe they'll be ready to play Wednesday.
The Orioles will start Miguel Gonzalez against Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. Gonzalez wasn't even on the team's radar until this season, when he emerged from the Mexican league to become a staple of skipper Buck Showalter's rotation and a bit of a Yankee-killer to boot. Gonzalez went 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings against New York.
"Miguel has put himself in a position to contribute, and he's a great story about perseverance and just a strong will to succeed," Showalter said. "He's been fun to watch."
So has Kuroda for the Yankees. There's no telling how much the Japanese import, who signed with New York last winter, helped solidify a starting staff that had its bouts with injury and inconsistency, and he shined at home, going 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA in the Bronx.
Meanwhile, the Yankees might try to mix up their lineup, with Alex Rodriguez struggling and the pressure mounting as the series becomes a two-out-of-three affair.
"I think that we're going to do whatever it takes to win this three-game series," New York skipper Joe Girardi said. "Nothing that we do will be something that is just a knee-jerk reaction. ... I have a great group of guys that's very unselfish, and they really want to win. And that's what we're going to do -- what we think is best to win."
Expect to see a lot of that attitude Wednesday.
You'll see it in Washington, where the Nationals return home having split games in St. Louis against the Cardinals at 1:00 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Edwin Jackson will start for the Nationals against Cardinals righty and postseason regular Chris Carpenter, who has arrived from the injury sidelines at just the right time.
"I think it's going to be great," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "I mean, our fan base all year long has been outstanding, and they have been into the games as good as any fans I've ever been around. ... The guys really enjoy playing here. We love the city and we love the ballpark and we love the fans."
And the Cardinals love Carpenter, the two-time World Series winner, who got himself ready to go once these bright lights were turned on.
"If you're not excited about pitching in a game like this, there's no need to play this game," Carpenter said. "That's what it's all about ... coming out and having an opportunity to pitch in the postseason when everything matters, and hopefully do the best you can to give your team a chance to win."
Carpenter said he's confident in his stuff, which has gotten better each time he's been on the mound since returning Sept. 21 from a bout with nerve issues in his right arm.
And in Cincinnati at 4:00 p.m. ET on TBS, the Reds will have to be confident in their Game 4 starter, Mike Leake, who is being pressed into duty and will take the roster spot from ace Johnny Cueto, who is out for the series with an oblique strain.
"You have to go with the healthy bodies," Reds manager Dusty Baker said, and the Giants will have a playoff-tested pitcher of their own going Wednesday in southpaw Barry Zito, ready to do what he can to fight off elimination.
In Oakland at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT, the A's find themselves in another won-or-done scenario, and once again they'll rely on a rookie, with 24-year-old A.J. Griffin taking the hill against Detroit strikeout artist Max Scherzer. And even if they win that game, they'll have to face Justin Verlander in Game 5.
But on Wednesday, nobody on the fields of the Coliseum, Great American Ball Park, Nationals Park or Yankee Stadium will be looking ahead.
And in the seats and in front of the TV screens, computer monitors and mobile devices, no fans will be looking away.
All four series will be in action Wednesday, and all four promise to be as electrifying as ever.
"In the dugout, everyone was up and fired up and saying, 'We can get it done. We've got to, this is now,'" Romo said Tuesday night. "We believe in ourselves, and we go out there and play hard. The emotion is definitely there."
Guess what? It's only getting started.