October 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning in game five of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Tigers defeated the Athletics 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Oakland Athletics have won the division two years in a row, and are poised to make a run for a third straight year. Yet, the past two years they have exited the playoffs in the exact same fashion, losing in game 5 to Justin Verlander.
So will this be the year they finally go all the way? Only if they can overcome their fatal flaw. They can’t score runs against elite pitching. The Boston Red Sox were able to score against the likes of Verlander. The Athletics were not. This 2014 season they need to find a way to beat elite pitchers. The Athletics could potentially have a 9 or 10 game win streak going if not for this flaw.
They faced Felix Hernandez twice and could not get much going against him. They get to him when it’s too late. Now some of it has been the fault of the bullpen. The offense did manage to tag Hernandez for 4 runs in their last game against him, but the Mariners offense managed to outscore the Athletics.
It’s too early to tell so far, but this season they need to win against ace pitchers. They need to beat guys like Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and maybe even Masashiro Tanaka if they face him when they play the Yankees in June. They can’t just have one good day against one of these guys. They need to prove that the offense can score runs against elite pitching.
If the Athletics fail to do so this season, it’s fair to say they’ll make yet another early October exit. Success against elite pitching will give the team confidence to do so in the post season. They had that great week against Detroit where they nearly swept the 4-game series, but they need more than that. They need to do so often. They can win the World Series, and more after that if they can find out how to overcome elite pitchers.