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.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.