Home Field Only an Advantage to St. Louis, Unkind to Boston in LCS Matchups

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By Sam McPherson

Home-field advantage in the Major League baseball playoffs doesn’t always pan out — just ask the Oakland Athletics, of course, a team that just lost a deciding Game Five of their Division Series on their home turf for the second season in a row.

And Saturday, in the League Championship Series games in both the American and National leagues, home-field advantage was a mixed bag — which goes to show you never really can predict the MLB postseason, as much as some experts or fans pretend they can.

To wit, the Los Angeles Dodgers threw the best 1-2 pitching punch in the league at the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and they came away down two games to none: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw couldn’t get L.A. a win, so now it’s back to Los Angeles for Game Three — with the Dodgers not able to throw either “ace” any time soon.

Depending on how L.A. Manager Don Mattingly decides, the Cardinals could sweep the Dodgers before Greinke or Kershaw can make a difference now, and that would be quite the shocker to most of the experts.

That’s probably not the way the Dodgers saw this series going, especially after they were able to get an early split on the road in the AL Division Series against the Braves with that same 1-2 punch at the top of their playoff rotation.

But St. Louis offered up some pretty good pitching themselves, holding the Dodgers to just two runs in a 13-inning game on Friday night and then shutting them out on Saturday. So for all their pitching prowess, Los Angeles might need to jump-start its offensive lineup before Monday night at home in Dodger Stadium.

Game time for that NLCS Game Three is 5:07 p.m. PT.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 12:  Fans look on following Game One of the American League Championship Series, the Detroit Tigers defeated the Boston Red Sox 1-0 at Fenway Park on October 12, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

As for the Boston Red Sox, if any expert could have predicted they’d almost get no-hit in Game One of the ALCS at Fenway Park, they would have been doing some national media tours today — but they’re not. The Red Sox were the highest-scoring team in the majors this year, but AL ERA champ Anibal Sanchez threw six innings of no-hit ball at them — even though he walked six batters and had to toss 116 pitches.

So Detroit Manager Jim Leyland went to the bullpen, and Boston didn’t get a hit until Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit gave one up with one out in the ninth. Five Detroit pitchers combined efforts for the one-hit, 1-0 win over the Red Sox that gives the Tigers a 1-0 edge in that series.

Just like they did against Oakland in the ALDS, Detroit stole home-field advantage with a one-run, Game One victory.

If that recipe works, why mess with it, right? We’ll see.

Game Two of the ALCS is scheduled for Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The old cliche is a postseason series never really starts in earnest until the home team loses a game. So Los Angeles could be in better position than Boston right now, if that maxim holds true. But it would be foolhardy to count either team out of it at this point, especially after the amazing comebacks posted in both the NLDS and the NLCS, respectively, by the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants last October.

It’s never over until it’s over in baseball, of course, as much as the experts like to suggest it is. You think they’d have learned by now.

Read more MLB Playoff news here.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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