Bird's-eye view of series vs. A's
The Oakland A's are waiting. They're waiting for the Red Sox to end what little suspense is left in the wild-card "race." And then what? What happens when these teams meet in the divisional series, which starts Wednesday in Oakland? Some members of the Orioles weighed in on the matchup before last night's game at Fenway Park.
"In a five-game series, flip a coin," said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, who directed Cleveland to the playoffs every season from 1995-99, including three divisional series against the Sox. "It's who's hot and who's not. I certainly think Pedro [Martinez] and [Derek] Lowe match up well with [Tim] Hudson and [Barry] Zito. But, beyond that, that's where the coin toss comes in."
And then, as if to state the obvious, Hargrove added, "it's going to come down to who pitches the best. In a five-game series, you get a break here or there and that's all you need."
Baltimore Hall of Famer Jim Palmer hearkened back to 1969, the first year of divisional playoffs. The heavily favored Orioles nearly lost the first game to Minnesota and, although Baltimore swept the series, Palmer didn't want to think about what might have happened had the O's not prevailed in the 12-inning opener.
"I went to [Sox manager] Grady [Little] and congratulated him and then I told him, `Don't dally in the first round,' " Palmer said. "Five games is frightening. I was on a team [in 1969] that won 109 games and we needed a homer from Boog Powell to tie the game and were lucky to win it in the 12th. Five games can go very, very quickly."
But Palmer, an Orioles television analyst, is duly impressed with what he sees in Boston.
"The Red Sox stack up against anybody," Palmer said. "You have one of the biggest, big-game pitchers in the history of the game in Pedro Martinez, who's pitching very well and who's healthy. You have one of the great offensive ball clubs in the history of the game. But I think they'll all say that Oakland has the best pitching. Now, is it because they're good [pitchers] or because they're good and they have a big stadium?" The universal sense among the Orioles interviewed was that if the Red Sox continue to hit, they will be very difficult to beat. The equally universal consensus was that the Boston bats will find plenty of resistance in Oakland.
"You look at this year and Oakland's bullpen has been better than Boston's," Hargrove said. "But no one has an offensive lineup like Boston's. If Boston swings the bat they way they can, and scores the runs the way they can, then I think they have as good a chance as anybody." Orioles first base coach Rick Dempsey saw the matchup in pretty simple terms: Boston's bats against Oakland's hurlers.
"All the offense is here in Boston and all the pitching and defense is in Oakland," he said. "Or at least the better pitching and defense is in Oakland. It's going to be a helluva series. If Oakland can swing the bat at all close to the way Boston does, then they have an advantage. So it's really a toss-up."
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