The Cove
Deep coverage of the Giants

Best Chance to Advance: Giants or A's?

After two straight days of surviving, the Giants and A's are both in a miraculous position to advance to their respective championship series. Let's look at who's got the best shot.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    All of the cliches in baseball count today: backs against the wall, do or die, lose or go home.

    To say that it's a big day - no, a huge day - for Bay Area baseball is a definite understatement.

    It's Game 5 in the division series for both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. Both teams are playing, the Giants are facing the Reds in Cincinnati right now and the A's play the Tigers at 6:37 p.m. at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland.

    Watch Comcast's Post Game Live Here

    If either team wins, they move on to the League Championship Series.

    If either team loses, they are out. For good.

    Both teams have been fighting off elimination after starting their best-of-five series down 0-2.

    Because of the nail-biting sports week in the Bay Area - with two teams playing in cities about ten miles apart  - people have been going ga-ga over baseball. That means even people who don't normally even care about the game are showing up to school and grocery stores in team colors - sometimes even mixing them all up, with orange-and-black (for the Giants), and green-and-yellow (for the A's) T-shirts, caps and silly colored shoelaces. Locker rooms are filled with talk of who is going to win, and strangers who don't even know each other are high-fiving each other with comments like, "What about those A's?"

    Here's a look at the key matchups in the two monster games:

    Starting Pitching
    That the Giants forced two extra games with Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito starting is beyond me. But here they are in a Game 5 and that means Matt Cain gets to take the mound again. This is his first road postseason start in his career, which is beyond terrifying. The good news, though, is that lifetime at Great American Ballpark, Cain has a 3.44 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 34 innings in five starts. OK, maybe "not terrible news" is better. Whatever. Also worth noting: Cain got knocked around a bit (three earned runs in 6.1 innings) this season at GABP and is 0-3 this season against the Reds. Mat Latos was killer this season at home, posting a 3.18 ERA. Even worse: he 0.90 ERA against the Giants in three starts this season.

    The Athletics don't have an easy road either. Know why? Two words: Justin Verlander. He had a 0.69 ERA against the A's during two starts in the regular season. Verlander's also 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 27 strikeouts (in 22 innings) in his last three starts. Terrifying. Jarrod Parker's rolling out for the A's and he hasn't been bad on his own: 3.93 ERA over his last three starts, going 2-1, striking out 19 in 18.1 innings. But he ain't no Verlander.

    Advantage: Giants

    Batting
    Buster Posey's just about the only Giants player with great success against Latos. He's got two home runs in 16 plate appearances with a .267/.313/.979 line. The taters are nice, but not inspiring. Pablo Sandoval's got a homer as well. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are both batting .273 against Latos over 11 at bats each. It gets a little ugly for the Giants: Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwick both have three homers each against Cain. Jay Bruce is batting .533 against him. Votto's hitting .280. Sheesh.

    This is odd: Coco Crisp is really good against Verlander, posting a .346/.346/.885 line with a homer against the ace. Seth Smith also has a home run against Verlander. Other than that? Pssh. Good luck. No one's got a ton of run against Parker from the Tigers (six at bats at most) but Alex Avila does have a home run and Miguel Cabrera is 2-for-6.

    Advantage: A's

    Intangibles
    The mystifying areas of advantage really come into play today because no one saw these games coming. Reds fans aren't showing up to the park and the Giants are on a roll. Reds fans apparently feel desperation; there's no question San Francisco has the momentum here. The bad news is that Latos HATES the Giants. He's a self-proclaimed Giants killer. The A's walked off in spectacular fashion on Wednesday night, with Crisp knocking in Smith in the bottom of the ninth. For whatever reason, the Tigers are freaking out. Miggy won't talk to the media. I mean, they have Verlander, so it's odd. But they also know they burnt him for Game 1 of the ALCS, which is annoying and forward-looking.

    Advantage: Giants

    Both teams have a lot going for them here in terms of intangibles. And it wouldn't be shocking to see both advance. But before you get your Bay Area hopes up, don't forget that Latos and Verlander are walking nightmares for these teams. It's why both teams are underdogs in Vegas tonight: the Giants check in at +115 and a 1.5-run underdog. The A's are +122 and 1.5-run dogs as well. If Wednesday was any indication, they're decent bets, but there's a guarantee for drama.

    NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.