A's looking to close the deal

Originally Published: October 5, 2006
ESPN.com

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

We've reached the breaking point of the Division Series, with each one shifting to new hosts for Game 3. A few teams are in need of quick fixes.

The anemic offenses of the Padres and Dodgers have the NL West representatives looking for answers and ways to get some of their better hitters (Mike Piazza and J.D. Drew among them) back on track.

Meanwhile, the Tigers and A's get to host a pair of games feeling rather good about themselves and should find the confines of home quite friendly.

The Tigers showed they belonged in the postseason with their performance in Game 2 against the Yankees -- particularly setup man Joel Zumaya, who was unintimidated by the fans in the Bronx.

The A's have shown why they were pegged as baseball's best all-around team at the preseason experts seminar on "Baseball Tonight." They've pitched, hit and come through when needed. Now, they just need to find a way to finish off an opponent so that the mocking of GM Billy Beane's "Moneyball" philosophy and its postseason failure will come to a halt.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

NEW YORK METS
Who's hot: The 4-5-6 hitters in the Mets' lineup (Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Cliff Floyd) are 10-for-24 with four runs scored and six RBI. Floyd's swing in particular looks a lot better, perhaps aided by a cortisone shot he had in the final week of the season. He has hit in seven straight games dating back to the end of the regular season.
Who's not: Jose Valentin and Carlos Beltran are each 0-for-5, but they have contributed in other ways. Beltran has worked pitchers for four walks, while Valentin has scored two runs.
Outlook: The Mets gave themselves a nice cushion with two wins in New York but now are faced with pitching Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez on the road. The pair allowed 17 runs in 11 innings against Los Angeles this season.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Who's hot: Jeff Kent had two hits in each of the first two games of the NLDS. He closed the regular season with four multi-hit games in his last five games. The problem for the Dodgers' cleanup hitter is that he hasn't provided any power. Dating back to the regular season, his last eight hits have been singles.
Who's not: Kenny Lofton and J.D. Drew are a combined 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts. Lofton, who whiffed three times in Game 1, was robbed of a hit in his first at-bat of Game 2, dropping his career postseason batting average to .244.
Outlook: The Dodgers spent part of the season honoring the World Series champs of 1981. That team faced a similar predicament as this Dodgers squad, but after falling behind 2-0 against Houston, they rallied to win the last three games of its first-round series.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Who's hot: Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds are a combined 8-for-15 with a home run and five RBI. Edmonds has a one-RBI edge (33 to 32) on Pujols for most career postseason RBI in Cardinals history.
Who's not: The left side of the Cardinals' infield (David Eckstein and Scott Rolen) is a combined 1-for-15 in the NLDS.
Outlook: Game 3 starter Jeff Suppan will go for the closeout. He went 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his last eight regular-season starts. He's pretty good in big games, too. Remember? He beat Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Who's hot: The Padres' bullpen has pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings, but they've basically been irrelevant as the offense has scored only one run.
Who's not: Padres catchers Josh Bard and Mike Piazza are a combined 0-for-8. The other problem for the Padres is hitting with runners in scoring position. They're 0-for-10 in this series.
Outlook: The NL West offenses have looked meek in these two series. But remember, the Padres are comfortable on the road, where they went 45-36 this season.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NEW YORK YANKEES
Who's hot: It would be easy to say Derek Jeter, but Johnny Damon earns the pick after a 4-for-10 performance (consecutive 2-for-5s) in the first two games against the Tigers. He's also only the second player to homer in the postseason for both the Yankees and Red Sox.
Who's not: Alex Rodriguez is 1-for-8 with four strikeouts. He's 4-for-35 in his last 10 games in postseason play.
Outlook: The Yankees have won 12 of 17 at Comerica Park dating back to 2002. Alex Rodriguez would do well to recall his 6-for-16 in that ballpark this season, as opposed to his 1-for-12 last year.
DETROIT TIGERS
Who's hot: Curtis Granderson is 4-for-9 with four RBI, unintimidated by Yankee Stadium, where he went 2-for-10 in the regular season.
Who's not: Ivan Rodriguez is 0-for-8 after entering this postseason on a five-game postseason hit streak. He returns to his home ballpark this weekend, where he hit .323 in the regular season.
Outlook: Game 3 starter Kenny Rogers can make up for all the failures of being winless in his last 11 starts against the Yankees with a big performance against Randy Johnson on Friday night.
OAKLAND A'S
Who's hot: The bottom three hitters in the Oakland order are 7-for-22 over the two games, and the hope is that some of that rubs off on D'Angelo Jimenez, who replaces injured second baseman Mark Ellis in Friday's lineup.
Who's not: Milton Bradley and Eric Chavez are each 0-for-8. Chavez has one hit in his last 30 postseason at-bats, while Bradley is now just 3-for-19 for his career in the playoffs.
Outlook: Oakland's problem in years past has been its killer instinct. The A's have lost their last nine chances to clinch a postseason series, but most of this roster has not been around for those past failures.
MINNESOTA TWINS
Who's hot: Michael Cuddyer, who closed the season with a nine-game hit streak, is 3-for-8 in the ALDS with a single, triple and home run.
Who's not: The Twins' bullpen, which entered the postseason with the best ERA in baseball during the regular season, has allowed four runs in the first two games of this series.
Outlook: The Twins won their last four road series of the regular season. To win one in the postseason, they'll have to take two straight to force a fifth game back in Minnesota.

LAST CALL?

The good news for the Minnesota Twins is that they can come to Oakland knowing they can't play any worse. The Twins committed two errors in Game 1, had a baserunning mistake and didn't move runners over when they had the opportunity. When you have two teams that are evenly matched like the Twins and A's, the one that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win.

I'm in the minority on this, but if Minnesota wins Game 3, there is no way I'd bring back Johan Santana for Game 4. He battled in Game 1 and already has thrown a lot of innings this season. Besides, the Twins need to win three games in a row, so someone other than Santana has to step up.

Minnesota already has lost Francisco Liriano, and Brad Radke is not 100 percent, so I would not take a chance on hurting Santana, who is probably still a little stiff from Game 1. I'm sure Santana will want to pitch Game 4 if the Twins win Friday, but cooler heads need to prevail. Keep him on schedule, because the Twins have had enough injuries to their rotation.

Meanwhile, the A's have used a lot of different players this year: Third baseman Eric Chavez missed some time, shortstop Bobby Crosby is out and outfielder Milton Bradley also was sidelined with injuries. Still, Oakland kept responding, and that's why the A's have the best record in baseball since the All-Star break (48-26).

Mark Ellis is one of the best defensive second basemen in the game, and despite hitting ninth in the A's lineup, his bat will be missed at the bottom of the order. (In Game 2, Oakland's 7-8-9 hitters were 5-for-12 with three runs scored; the bottom of Minnesota's order went 1-for-11.) Ellis is a big loss, but the A's have dealt with situations like this all season. Look at starter Rich Harden. He was supposed to be the ace of the staff, and he just returned in late September. This has truly been a team effort all the way around all season long in Oakland.

A's manager Ken Macha told us before Game 2 that designated hitter Frank Thomas has given this lineup the power it hasn't had since the days of Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi. Chavez is a great player, but he's not going to hit 40 home runs. Thomas does a lot for the batters who hit in front and behind him in the lineup. Thomas hit his 12th home run of the season on June 1. By comparison, Oakland's designated hitters had 11 homers in all of 2005.

ELIAS SAYS
• The Tigers rallied from a 3-1 deficit against Mike Mussina, who was undefeated at Yankee Stadium over the past four regular seasons when staked to a lead of two or more runs (29-0 with six no-decisions). But Mussina is now just 5-3 in 10 postseason starts in which he has led by two runs, and his team lost both games in which he didn't record a decision.

• Here's a reality check for those who thought David Wells could spin postseason magic for the Padres: He has won two of his past seven postseason starts, including his Game 2 loss to the Cardinals. Wells made 10 postseason starts from 1995-98, posting a record of 8-1 with a 2.99 ERA. Since then, he is 2-4 with a 4.08 ERA.

• Tom Glavine pitched six scoreless innings to earn the victory in the Mets' win over the Dodgers. Glavine, who has 290 regular-season wins, defeated Hong-Chih Kuo, who has one victory. Here's a surprise: Not only was that not the largest differential in postseason history, but it wasn't even close. The "record" was set during the 1925 World Series, when Walter Johnson of the Senators (397-257 at that time) defeated Emil Yde of the Pirates (33-12).

More from Elias Says

BIG TIME
Glavine pitches Mets to 2-0 NLDS lead.
NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
GOOD
Todd Jones The Tigers' bullpen held down the Yankees' mighty offense as Detroit beat New York 4-3 to even the series at one game apiece. Jamie Walker, Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones finished the game, facing 10 batters and getting 11 outs, including a double play. Zumaya topped out at 103 mph. Walker got the win, and Jones pitched the ninth for the save.
BAD
The Dodgers lost to the Mets 4-1 and now are on the brink of being swept out of the playoffs. The Blue Crew is 1-11 in the postseason since winning the 1988 World Series.
UGLY
The Padres lost 2-0 to the Cardinals and head to St. Louis down 0-2 in their NLDS. The Pads are hitting an embarrassing .164 in the series, getting just 10 hits and one run so far, while striking out 20 times. They're 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and have stranded 13.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
The Tigers were viewed as nothing more than an appetizer for the powerful Yankees, but now they have a chance to shock the world.
SPECIAL DELIVERY
How did Jeff Weaver pick up his first postseason win? Check out Inside Edge's report card of his outing against the Padres.
STAT OF THE DAY
The Cardinals' rookie-dominated bullpen has thrown 6 2/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball with 10 strikeouts and one walk in their two NLDS games against the Padres.
DID YOU KNOW?
Dodgers left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo played high school ball in Taiwan with 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I hope in my heart everybody realizes we are a playoff team. I'm not sure everybody believed that."
-- Tigers manager Jim Leyland
OCTOBER POP
Cards improve to 8-0 in playoffs vs. Pads.
NEWS AND NOTES
Nomar Garciaparra • Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra left Game 2 against the Mets in the sixth inning after reinjuring his left quadriceps. His status for Game 3 on Saturday is uncertain. Garciaparra strained his quadriceps Sept. 15 during a game against San Diego and hurt it again against the Mets trying to beat out an infield grounder leading off the sixth.

• Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez had successful surgery on his right rotator cuff Thursday. He is expected to be sidelined until next June.

• In a move that could help push discussions toward an agreement, the A's have increased their offer to Frank Thomas to two years, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports. Thomas has been seeking a two-year deal, but the team's most recent offer had been for a one-year deal, plus an option year. The two-year offer would be worth $6 million, with incentives that could lift it to $8 million.

• A's second baseman Mark Ellis will miss the rest of the postseason after breaking his right index finger when he swung at a pitch and it hit his hand. Ellis injured himself swinging at a pitch from Twins closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning of Game 2. D'Angelo Jimenez will start in Game 3 for Oakland.

• A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, who missed the final 52 games of the regular season with a back injury, said Thursday he's not getting any better and doubts he'd be able to play if the A's advance past the first round.

• Astros utility player Chris Burke underwent surgery on his dislocated left shoulder on Thursday and is expected to recover fully by spring training. The surgery was performed in Birmingham, Ala., by Dr. James Andrews. Burke hurt his shoulder crashing into the wall at Denver's Coors Field in May and then reinjured it in June while batting against the Cubs.

• A man who told police Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers grabbed him by the collar during an altercation near Comerica Park last weekend says he wants to drop the matter. James Spurlock, 37, of Adrian, told the Detroit Free Press he will settle for an apology from Rogers for the way he and his 14-year-old son were treated when the boy asked for an autograph. Rogers has declined comment on the situation.

MISSION POSSIBLE
Tigers tie series with Yankees.
FORWARD THINKING: FRIDAY
Brad RadkeTwins at A's, 4 ET: The Twins need a win to stay alive and are counting on Brad Radke (12-9, 4.32) to deliver. Radke is pitching on guts with a torn labrum and stress fracture in his right shoulder. He didn't allow an earned run in five innings against the Royals on Sept. 28, his first appearance in more than a month. Dan Haren (14-13, 4.12) will be throwing on six days' rest and should be fresh.

Randy JohnsonYankees at Tigers, 8 ET: Detroit hosts its first postseason game since 1987 and will be rocking. Randy Johnson (17-11, 5.00) is ready to go, but if his ailing back (herniated disc) acts up, don't be surprised to see Jaret Wright (11-7, 4.49) take the hill. Kenny Rogers (17-8, 3.84) limited opposing left-handed batters to a .200 average during the regular season and went 7-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts) at Comerica Park.

Friday's probable starters