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.
So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.
The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.
Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.
With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.