There has been a lot of chatter about how the 2-3 format of the division series — with the higher seed starting on the road for two games — is not really a home field advantage. It certainly hasn’t been for the A’s, as they have started off their series 0-2 in Detroit despite having said advantage, theoretically speaking.
Jonny Gomes put a bit of a point on that yesterday when he spoke with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Gomes said the A’s 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. buses to the ballpark Sunday felt like 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. for the West Coast team. “It’s tough to call that a home-field advantage,” he said. …
Well, I guess that does kinda stink. And given that, aside from this year’s schedule, which was necessitated by a compressed playoff calendar, baseball has generally abandoned the 2-3 structure, it seems that no one really agrees that 2-3 advantages the higher-seeded team. Also mitigating against any advantage in a 2-3 is the fact that, over the course of baseball history, winners of Game 1 in any series have a pronounced edge.
That said, outside of the Oakland-Tigers tilt, the higher-seeded teams in these division series are 4-0 so far, so I don’t think Gomes is gonna get too many people to join his pity party.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.