Morning glory: Early wakeup for fans in Oakland

Game 2 of the division series between the Tigers and Athletics

is Sunday at 12:07 p.m. Detroit time – or 9:07 a.m. back in

Oakland.

With a night game Saturday, it will be a quick turnaround for

everyone.

”I think the postseason – doesn’t really matter – you’re going

to be fired up for any game whatever time it’s at,” said

left-hander Tommy Milone, the Game 2 starter for the A’s. ”Just go

out there and pitch your game and take it from there.”

Milone will try to reverse a trend from the regular season in

which he pitched much better at home. Milone’s ERA was 2.74 at

Oakland and 4.83 on the road.

”We feel comfortable wherever he pitches,” manager Bob Melvin

said. ”I think this ballpark is a lot like ours and it’s fairly

big – use a big part of the ballpark and pretty deep to center

field and the gaps here.”

FIRST PITCH: Alex Smith proved he’s much better at throwing a

football under pressure for the San Francisco 49ers than a baseball

off a mound.

Smith got rewarded with the ceremonial first-pitch honor for his

loyalty to the Giants and responded with a one-hop pitch in the

dirt.

”I’m disgusted with myself,” he said after the pitch. ”Stick

to throwing a football. It’s so great to be out here. A huge honor,

definitely. I’m humbled by it.”

Smith was decked out in a Matt Cain Giants jersey and hat to

throw out the first pitch before Game 1 of San Francisco’s division

series against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

Smith said he hadn’t thrown off a mound since he was about 10

years old and practiced a little bit this week but was saving his

arm for his day job of quarterback of the 49ers. He got some tips

from Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who visited Niners practice earlier

this week, but his pitch from just in front of the rubber to Sergio

Romo still didn’t make it there on the fly.

”He was trying to give me help with my grip, how I should hold

the ball,” Smith said. ”He’s definitely not to blame. I should

have listened.”

The honor comes a few weeks after Smith revealed that the NFL

had fined him $15,000 last season for wearing a Giants hat to a

postgame news conference – a penalty that was later revoked.

Shortly after that news came out, Giants manager Bruce Bochy

wore a 49ers hat for his pregame media briefing and Giants

infielder Ryan Theriot bought 49ers hats for all of his

teammates.

”We certainly appreciate his support wearing a Giants hat,”

Bochy said. ”That’s why we wanted to reciprocate and wear a 49ers

had and have some fun with it, and have him throw out the first

pitch. This club has a lot of 49ers fans, especially when they’re

playing that day and it’s going to be good to have him out there.

We may take a look at him, too. He has a good arm.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh gave Smith permission to leave the team hotel

the night before a home game against the Buffalo Bills for the

honor. He got a police escort to the stadium and went right back

after the pregame ceremony.

REDS SOLO CUP: Sitting on a table near the back of the visitor’s

clubhouse at AT&T Park is a 2-foot high gold and silver trophy

cup – a mini Stanley Cup of sorts that Cincinnati has used for

motivation this season.

To capture the cup, the Reds have to win each individual series

they play.

So far the idea has worked pretty well. Cincinnati won nine of

its final 15 series to pull away and win the NL Central for the

second time in three years.

”It’s kind of a symbol of winning each series,” Reds catcher

Ryan Hanigan said. ”We carry it around with us, we drink out of

it. It’s just something to keep us loose. We haven’t lost too many

so it’s been working for us and we’re going to keep riding

it.”

The cup began showing up around midseason, though no one is

quite certain who originally came up with the idea. Outfielder Ryan

Ludwick gets the most credit, but all of Cincinnati’s players take

part in naming the trophy for every series. They called it the

Cheddar Cup in Milwaukee and the Friar Cup in San Diego.

”It could be the Windy City Cup if you’re in Chicago, it could

be the Golden Gate Cup if you’re out here (in San Francisco),”

said pitcher Bronson Arroyo, the Reds’ Game 2 starter. ”We toss

some ideas around and somebody sticks with one.”

Cincinnati rode the cup to 29 series victories during the

regular season. If the Reds can have similar success in the

playoffs, they could end up with two more trophies.

For now, they’re content sticking with the one they have.

”Baseball is such a long game, it’s much easier to focus on the

task at hand if you can take it in small snapshots of three

games,” Arroyo said. ”We hope it doesn’t die a

first-rounder.”

MOTOWN MEMORIES: Melvin began his career with the Tigers,

playing 41 games for them in 1985. That was his only season with

Detroit, but the former catcher still has vivid memories of his

first home game.

”There was a buzz at Tiger Stadium that was unlike no other and

putting on the white uniform with the English D and walking into

Tiger Stadium with the people right on top of you,” Melvin said.

”I remember Kirk Gibson got hit in the mouth by a pitch … was

bleeding all over the place. Stitched him up right there.”

Melvin would end up playing with seven major league teams,

including San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City, Boston, the New

York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.

This is his second postseason trip as a manager. He took Arizona

to the NL championship series in 2007.

DID IT RATE?: Major League Baseball’s first wild-card,

winner-take-all playoff games averaged a 3.7 overnight rating on

TBS.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ 6-3 win at Atlanta on Friday averaged a

3.3 overnight rating from the 56 metered markets and the Baltimore

Orioles’ 5-1 victory at Texas in the late game averaged a 4.1

overnight.

Last year, TBS and TNT averaged a 3.3 overnight rating and a 2.7

national rating for 19 division series games.

PUMA CAGED: Lance Berkman looked out of place, wearing street

clothes in the Cardinals clubhouse while uniformed teammates milled

about on the eve of the NL division series opener.

It’s something the player known as Big Puma has had to get used

to this season after playing a key role on the World Series title

team last year. The 36-year-old Berkman has been slowed by knee

problems and is unlikely to see action no matter how far this

year’s team goes – partly because of rust and partly because of

Allen Craig’s play at first base.

Berkman isn’t ready to retire. The six-time All-Star hit .301

with 32 homers and 94 RBIs in 2011 but just .259 with two homers

and seven RBIs in 81 at-bats this year.

”We’ll see,” Berkman said. ”The knee will get back to 100

percent, it’s just a matter of whether I want to keep going or not.

That’s a decision that’s still in the future.”

Factoring into the decision will be Berkman’s desire to spend

more time with his four daughters, the oldest of which is 11.

He’s a career .296 hitter with six 100-RBI seasons and 360 home

runs in 14 seasons, three of the last four shortened by injuries.

He won’t play just to improve his stats for Hall of Fame

voters.

”If they want to see longevity, then no,” Berkman said. ”If

they want to see a guy hang around till he’s 40 just to pile up

400-some homers, then no. I project with anybody that’s in our

building, and in my mind I feel good about that. As far as what

other people think, that’s up to them.”