Elimination Tuesday? The Athletics and Giants have their backs up against the wall

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Today marks the first day when a team could be eliminated from the division series. The Athletics and the Giants are both in action and both face 0-2 deficits. It’s do or die time, Bay Area baseball fans.

The Giants find themselves in Ohio of all places, facing a pitcher who tossed a no-hitter 11 days ago.  Opposing Homer Bailey is Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong made two starts against the Reds this year, allowing six runs in thirteen innings. Bailey started once against the Giants, allowing three runs — two earned — in six and a third. Bailey, it should also be noted, is way worse at home this season than he is on the road.  And the Reds, it should be noted, haven’t won a home playoff game since 1995.  They need to win one of the next three to advance.

Meanwhile in Oakland, Brett Anderson squares off against Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers. All of the talk for the past two days has been about Al Alburquerque sealing a 1-3 putout with a kiss, but the A’s need to get over that in a hurry and focus on saving their playoff lives. The last time Anderson saw the Tigers — or any game action at all — was on September 19. That day he tweaked his oblique and left the game after giving up three earned runs in two and a third. Sanchez had no better luck against the A’s. He faced them back on September 20 and was tagged for five earned runs in five and two-thirds. Also worth noting that (a) the last time the A’s played in any playoff series at all, they were swept by the Tigers, back in 2006; and (b) the A’s have found themselves down 0-2 in seven previous playoff series, and ended up getting swept in six of the seven.

It’s pins and needles time for A’s and Giants fans. For the rest of us: the thrill of win-or-go-home baseball.  The Giants play the Reds at 5:37 PM Eastern.  The Tigers and A’s go off at 9:37 PM Eastern.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉