Monday, October 1, 2012

Three up, three down

The Dodgers and Angels both remain alive in the playoff race with three games left in the season. And both are barely hanging on. Both teams basically have to win all the remaining games, and they need the teams they are chasing, basically, to lose all their games. But it's still on.

By BILL PETERSON
Big Leagues in Los Angeles


Here we sit on Oct. 1, and Los Angeles is the only town in America with two big league baseball clubs still in the postseason hunt.

On Oct. 1, that's a big deal. On Oct. 2, it might still be. Or, it might not.

The Angels and Dodgers both are just barely alive. The Dodgers are two games behind St. Louis for that wretched, final playoff spot in the National League with three games left. The Angels are three games behind Oakland for that wretched, final playoff spot in the American League with three games remaining. Those three games take place Monday through Wednesday.

The Dodgers play their three at Dodger Stadium against the San Francisco Giants, who stomped to the NL West title and now have absolutely no incentive to win. The Giants are in a real good position now.

The Giants know they're going in as the No. 3 team, which means they're a road team through the playoffs. However, while the league's two top clubs, Washington and Cincinnati, go down to the wire for the NL's best record and the home field advantage going through the playoffs, the Giants are in comfy playoff prep mode.

We suppose, entering the playoffs, that the home field advantage would be well worth it. But what kinds of resources are the Reds and Nationals borrowing from the playoffs during the last few days of the regular season to put themselves in that position? Could be that if Giants manager Bruce Bochy plays his cards right, he will have maybe not the best team, but the sharpest and best rested team going to the playoffs. Could be some upsets in the making, coming from the Giants this fall.

If the Dodgers win three and the Cardinals lose three at home against Cincinnati, which now is tied with Washington for the best NL record at 96-93, then Dodgers are in the playoffs. If the Dodgers win two and the Cardinals lose two, then the Dodgers and Cardinals go to a play-in game, with the winner receiving a one-day trip to Atlanta.

The one advantage for the Dodgers over the Cardinals going to the last three days is the situation of their opponents. Perhaps the blood isn't quite so bad between the Reds and Cardinals since Tony LaRussa retired, but enough lingers to suggest that Reds players would be thrilled if they could secure the playoff home field and knock the Cards from the playoffs all at the same time -- and it would even happen in St. Louis.

The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants spans three centuries and two coasts. It has to one of the best half-dozen athletic rivalries around the world, and we put it ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox. But the force of this rivalry will not influence Bochy in any way during these next three days. Given a choice between resting a couple players for the playoffs and knocking the Dodgers out, the Giants are resting players.

Maybe, then, if the Dodgers make it in, the Giants will end up regretting that. At this point, that's a rather far-flung scenario.

The Angels go to Seattle needing three wins. They also need Oakland to lose three at Texas. All of that has to happen for the Angels to play Oakland in a play-in for the AL's fifth playoff spot. It won't, but it could.

Seattle is back to losing like a last-place team now that all the other last-place teams are off the schedule. Playing powerfully now, the Angels could sweep three.

The Rangers need one win against Oakland to clinch the AL West. They need at least two wins to clinch the best record in the AL. But will the Rangers need three wins?

It could come down to that for the Angels. How does it play out if we come to Wednesday with the Angels one game behind Oakland for the last wild card spot, but Texas has clinched the AL top seed? Almost certainly, Texas manager Ron Washington would sit some guys. That's his prerogative. Maybe, then, Oakland wins that last game and the Angels miss the playoffs because of it.

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