Entering the season, many forecasters, analysts, and other prognosticating types did not foresee either the Oakland Athletics nor the San Francisco Giants figuring into the playoff races of the 2010 season. However, entering the series on Friday, the Athletics sat in second place in the AL West, only four games behind the Texas Rangers and well within striking distance. Even more shocking was the Giants’ start to the season. They entered the series four games above .500 and only a game and a half behind the division leading San Diego Padres and a half game behind the Wild Card leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Shockingly to some, this Bay Area matchup could have a large impact on the playoff races on the west coast.
The series was all Oakland. The Athletics outscored the Giants 10-1 as part of a sweep. Athletics pitchers held Giants batters to a mere 14 hits and 6 walks in 99 plate appearances. Only three of the hits went for extra bases, and none for home runs. Starters Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Ben Sheets all went at least 6 innings. Cahill struck out four in 6.2 innings and allowed the only run of the series, Gonzalez struck out five in eight innings while only facing 27 batters, and Sheets struck out eight in six shutout innings in his best start of the year thus far.
Although A’s hitters got to Barry Zito for six runs on nine hits in the first game, they didn’t do much after that. Matt Cain received possibly the toughest luck loss of the year as his threw an eight inning complete game on Saturday, striking out four and only allowing six baserunners. The only run scored on him was unearned – the run scored after a HBP, error, sac bunt, and sac fly. Johnathan Sanchez’s wildness killed him on Sunday. He only allowed three hits, but five walks resulted in two runs, which was enough given the excellent performance of Sheets and the Athletics bullpen.
As a result of the sweep and Texas’s 2-1 series loss to the Chicago Cubs, the A’s now only sit two games out of the AL West lead. On the other side, the Giants dropped two games in the standings to the Padres, who defeated the Seattle Mariners twice over the weekend, as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who took two of three from the Detroit Tigers. They now sit 3.5 games out of the division lead and 2.5 out of the wild card, and now only have cushion of half a game over last year’s Wild Card champion, Colorado.
The Athletics are now potentially only a day away from first place, whereas the Giants are only a day away from fourth. This series has changed the complexion of the season for both of these teams – if Oakland finds itself in the playoffs come October and San Francisco is sitting at home, this series should be pointed to as a pivotal moment in both team’s seasons.