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Live Blogging: Tigers @ A’s Game 2 ALDS

October 5, 2013

Must win for the A’s. A’s are wearing the gold. Let’s hope tonight is a Sonny Day for Sonny Gray and not a Gray Day. I like how the narrative is going to be Justin Verlander‘s “down numbers”. It was sort of obvious this was the easy route the media would go and here they go. Let’s look at that down year for just a quick second. Down year WAR: 5.2 (4th in the AL – though scary for Oakland 3rd for the Tigers); down year K/9: 8.95 K/9 (8th in the AL); down year strikeouts: 217 (4th in the AL); down year FIP: 3.28 (7th in the AL). Yeah let’s worry about him. He isn’t a top one or two pitcher but maybe just a top eight pitcher – that’s a problem – for Oakland hitters.

6:10PM PDT – Top of 1st, 1 out – Nice 12-6 to get Austin Jackson swinging. That is a great start for him to get the first guy out on a K. Hopefully it creates some positive momentum (yes, I’ll suspend my disbelief in momentum for a minute). Gray establishing that curve is a good sign.

6:11PM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Torii Hunter grounds out to Jed Lowrie. Quick two outs. Would love to see a 1-2-3 inning but of course the biggest challenge is up next.

6:12PM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Solid single into left field for Miguel Cabrera. So there goes the 1-2-3 but Gray needs to just keep on his game and set down Prince Fielder.

6:14PM PDT – Top of 1st, 3 out – Good. No runs on the board. Nice easy fielding play for Gray. Three outs. Good start. A’s pitchers have now thrown nine straight innings without allowing a run proving it isn’t the Detroit hitters to fear as much as it is their pitchers who made just one mistake yesterday.

6:18PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 0 out – I’d love to see the A’s make Cabrera move around with a bunt down the third base line. It is sort of like making sure you hit an injured player in football. Make him feel it. Neutralize him. Take him out.

6:21PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 1 out – Nice battle there from Coco Crisp against Verlander – seven pitch at bat. No consolation in a fly out to left field though.

6:23PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 2 out – And here we go again with the strikeouts, four pitch strikeout of Lowrie as Verlander K’s him looking.

6:24PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 3 out – 1-2-3 for the Tigers as Josh Donaldson flies out to short right field. Omar Infante headed out and looked at the last minute for Hunter giving brief hope that the ball mind meet the outfield grass but alas it did not.

6:30PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 1 out – Nice play by Eric Sogard to range to his right and throw across his body to get Victor Martinez at first. Martinez isn’t a speedy runner by any means but it was a nice play nonetheless. One can question whether or not Alberto Callaspo would have got to that one.

6:32PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 1 out – Four pitch walk to Alex Avila. Nothing really good there. So we have yet to see a clean inning from Gray through two.

6:35PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 2 out – Curveball slays another as Infante chases in the dirt. I like the heavy dose of curveballs. Seems like that ball would be at best chopped into the ground which could have set up a double play. Like the pitch calling there from Stephen Vogt or Bob Melvin or whomever is calling the pitches.

6:37PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 2 out – Don Kelly gets an infield single. Even though Sogard dove for it and stopped it, I am not sure Avila gets to third regardless as the Tigers got a good lesson in Josh Reddick‘s arm last night. So nice dive but all for naught.

6:38PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 3 out – Hard ground out from Jose Iglesias straight to Donaldson who steps on third to conclude the second inning. Tigers still not on the board. Would be nice to get Gray a lead in the bottom half.

6:43PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 1 out – Here we go again. Strikeout as Brandon Moss is set down. I love how now that Verlander strikes someone out, they talk about how he has changed his repertoire and is throwing fewer fastballs and becoming a more complete pitcher and so on. This of course contradicts the down year narrative, where someone should be saying, maybe it is going to these secondary pitches that has resulted in this “down year”. But for now the down year is all forgotten because of two strikeouts in two innings of a team that struck out 48.5% of the time just one night ago.

6:45PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 2 out – Fly out to right field for Yoenis Cespedes who also brings Verlander to a full count. Interestingly in his career Verlander has a 0.82 K/BB ratio with a full count, in stark contrast to his 3.07 K/BB overall. I haven’t looked into other players or norms, but that seems surprising nonetheless.

6:48PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 3 out – Another strikeout. Seth Smith is the victim this time. He is one of the few A’s not to strike out in last night’s game the primary reason being while the A’s figured out every which way to strikeout they still didn’t figure out how to strikeout from the bench.

6:53PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 1 out – Another great K of Austin Jackson, this time he got him looking with the fastball. Third K of the game for Gray who is looking a lot sharper than Bartolo Colon to start the game.

6:55PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 2 out – A lot of yapping from Torii who was nearly hit for a second straight night. Wah wah wah. Sit down. Fourth strikeout of the game for Gray who is looking good. Would be nice to get that first 1-2-3 inning right here.

6:58PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 3 out – Wow. Struck out Cabrera on 96 mph heat to strike out the side. Five strikeouts for Gray who through three has thrown 54 pitches with 33 for strikes – a bit on the high side but the A’s bullpen is great and well rested. Importantly when he has not set down the Tigers on strikes, he has induced nothing but groundballs (in contrast to Verlander who has only induced fly outs). Great start for him and the A’s. He is showing Verlander up at this point.

7:03PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 1 out – Another fly ball out for Verlander who gets Reddick to fly out to Cabrera in the Coliseum’s expansive foul ground. Given the fly ball tendency that Verlander has exhibited thus far in this game, and the fact that this year it has been higher than usual for him, for what it is worth 7.8% of Verlander’s fly balls this season went over the fence, which is just below his 7.9% career average.

7:06PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 2 out – We know what to expect. Fly out or strikeout. Vogt struck out. Twenty strikeouts for the ALDS for the A’s so far and it is just twelve innings in. Yikes.

7:08PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 3 out – Line drive out for Sogard. Two hits and a walk surrendered by Gray but perfect for Verlander thus far. Also a more efficient 46 pitches (28 strikes). I really love pitching duels and this is the style of game I like to watch. As an aside I love hearing Buck Martinez talk about the A’s “grit”, Kirk Gibson would be proud. That said, their grit has a combined three hits and twenty strikeouts through 1 1/3 games.

7:13PM PDT – Top of 4th, 1 out – Fielder grounds out to start off the fourth. Good stuff to start.

7:15PM PDT – Top of 4th, 2 out – First fly out of the night for the Tigers as Martinez flies out to Reddick.

7:16PM PDT – Top of 4th, 3 out – Another 1-2-3 as Avila grounds out to Moss. Just a nine pitch inning which is good to see as Gray has been great but not entirely efficient with his pitches.

7:19PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 0 out – That wasn’t a fun stat they just showed on TBS: 20 straight scoreless innings against Oakland in the playoffs for Verlander. Hopefully this inning can break that streak. Want to see Coco jump start things with a bunt attempt to third. Force it. Do it!

7:23PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 1 out – Filthy pitch to get Coco on another 3-2 count. Inside corner 95 mph fast ball just froze him. A’s have no chance if Verlander continues to pitch like that. 10 up, 10 down. Jinx the perfecto all we can.

7:25PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 2 out – Filthy curveball to get Lowrie now. 11 up, 11 down. Six strikeouts for Verlander. Not even fair: three 95 mph fastballs followed by two 81 mph curves. No one is talking about his down year right around now in the booth.

7:28PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 2 out – 3-2 pitch and Donaldson hits it right back up the middle! Thank goodness! The A’s get their first hit. Verlander loses his perfect game and no hitter. Now the A’s need a run.

7:31PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 3 out – Beautiful pitch to freeze Moss. Don’t get why Jim Leyland and Verlander and whomever was making the decision were so concern with keeping Donaldson close at first. He has nine stolen bases in twelve attempts for a productive 75% success rate in his career but that isn’t someone to really be concerned with is it? What is more scary, the thought that Donaldson could get to second or the thought that by not focusing on Moss you could allow a home run to a guy with a .267 ISO this year? I suppose Verlander proved to us all he could multitask but why even bother with Donaldson? Strange.

7:35PM PDT – Top of 5th, 0 out – Second walk of the night for Gray. Second four pitch walk as well. If you’re going to walk guys might as well be efficient with it? Infante is on first to start the fifth.

7:36PM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Leyland puts on the hit and run so with just one out the Tigers have a runner in scoring position as Kelly grounds out to Sogard.

7:38PM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Watching in real time that seemed like a ball that Gray could have got to but I guess not. Slow roller up the middle and even though Lowrie bare-handed it he stood no chance Iglesias is fast. First real adversity the A’s and Gray have faced in this with runners on the corner. Jackson has been K’d twice but is not a man to double up though it has been done 12 times this year.

7:42PM PDT – Top of 5th, 3 out – Wow. Gray battles back from 3-0 to strike out Jackson. With the full count the runners were in motion and Vogt threw a strike to nab Iglesias trying to steal second. Beautiful toss from Vogt as Sogard seemed to wait for Iglesias to even get there. Five innings and no Tigers runs. Thirteen straight shutout innings of what is a relatively formidable offensive club (2nd best in baseball in terms of runs above replacement). That should give the A’s some positive vibes, hopefully this play can be a catalyst and the A’s can start the bottom half with a hit.

7:46PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 0 out – Single! Cespedes gets the A’s into the hit column for the second time tonight with a hit to right field. A’s time to strike is now.

7:49PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 0 out – Finally! Back-to-back hits as Smith lines a single into right field. I have a feeling that punch him out, throw him out really recharged the batteries of this team. That was a critical play. A fundamental shift type play.

7:50PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 1 out – I know what Melvin was thinking with the bunt attempt. But, that said this is against Verlander who is going to throw 95 mph heat (the pitch he got him out on was a 95 mph one, and the one that preceded it was 96) and Reddick has had a grand total of two sacrifice hits in 1,517 MLB plate appearances. Was that really the most optimum way of using Reddick as he bunts it out to Cabrera on the fly? I mean my concern was the guys stay put at first and second with a strikeout. End result ends up the same with that bunt attempt. To put into perspective how little Reddick is asked to bunt he has eight attempts in his career.

7:54PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 2 out – And it looks like the A’s are well on their way to squandering it, as Vogt strikes out. Vogt argued he fouled it and the ball hit the ground. The ball did hit the ground, but he quite clearly seemed to not hit it. C.B. Bucknor however seemed to indicate a foul tip but then said Avila caught it on the fly. So the call ends up correct, but for the wrong reasons so not worth splitting hairs over.

7:55PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 3 out – To extinguish a fire you deprive it of oxygen. That’s what it feels like Verlander did to that rally, and I think that Melvin inadvertently assisted him with choosing to have Reddick bunt. That was a big mistake that I fear comes back to haunt the A’s. Good chance Reddick strikes out right there but who knows. Sogard ends the inning with yet another A’s strike out – Verlander’s ninth. That is now 25 in 14 innings now. A’s actually are at a worse pace than yesterday as of the 18 batters, nine have struck out for a 50.0% rate.

8:01PM PDT – Top of 6th, 1 out – Gray gets Hunter swinging to start the sixth. This is just a great pitcher’s duel. If anyone looked at Gray’s line and said he was the second best starter in the game they’d never believe it. Not exactly Sandy Koufax‘s perfect game level performances from either of these pitchers (Bob Hendley pitching for the Cubs against Koufax that game threw a one hitter with one walk) but man, Gray can’t buy a break in this great outing.

8:02PM PDT – Top of 6th, 2 out – Exhale. Cabrera with a routine fly out.

8:03PM PDT – Top of 6th, 3 out – Fielder grounds out to second to end the inning. Seven pitch inning. That really helps matters out for Gray. Good to get a 1-2-3 against this part of the lineup using so few pitches. After six he is at 86 pitches. Of his ten starts he has pitched at least 86 pitches in eight of them his top being a 118 pitch outing against Houston on August 15th.

8:07PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 1 out – I still want to see Coco try and bunt it down the third base line and force Cabrera to make a play. Melvin just wants to bunt with Reddick though, so it is a fly out to center field and Jackson doesn’t really even have to move.

8:08PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 2 out – This Iglesias kid certainly can field. He goes a long way and catches the Lowrie fly out just short of the Oakland bullpen mounds.

8:10PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 3 out – Double digits as Verlander gets Donaldson swinging. Unreal. The A’s were actually better than most at avoiding the strikeout in 2013 with a 19.0% being 11th best (Tigers actually were the best in MLB at 16.8%). This series they are 26 of 54 for a 48.1% rate. The Astros were MLB’s worst at “just” 25.5%. Tigers pitchers are just mowing these A’s down. While the Tigers’ pitchers also were best in baseball at K% (23.3%) it was of course nowhere near what they’ve exhibited these two games so far.

8:16PM PDT – Top of 7th, 1 out – Routine grounder from Martinez for a 4-3 out to start the top of the seventh. No one seems to be warming in either pen.

8:18PM PDT – Top of 7th, 2 out – Another strikeout for Gray. Gets Avila frozen on a great hook. Eighth strikeout of the ballgame for Gray. Nice postseason debut.

8:19PM PDT – Top of 7th, 3 out – Another 1-2-3 inning for Gray as Infante flies to Cespedes who doesn’t even have to move. A’s go to the stretch time still locked up with the Tigers in the scoreless game.

8:26PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 0 out – Lead runner is on for Oakland as Moss draws a four pitch walk from Verlander who just pitched him up and away. Cespedes is due up next. Turning point?

8:27PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 1 out – Looked like Verlander was nibbling a bit which is strange and seemed out of character for him. Cespedes took the second pitch of the at bat though and drove it into the gap. Torii however got to it on a lunge before dropping it on the transfer. Catch counted. The drop on the transfer potentially saved Moss who was at second as that ball looked like it would get past Hunter.

8:28PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 2 out – That ball looked like it might drop between Cabrera, Iglesias and Kelly but it hung up and Kelly got to it and Smith flies out on the first pitch he sees in the at bat. Two quick outs have changed what seemed like a rally.

8:33PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 2 out – Weird that Buck says that Leyland was concerned about a delayed steal. Moss doesn’t strike me as a threat in that regard. Moot point as Reddick lines it into right field and Moss (barely) gets from first to third – good slide helps him avoid a great toss from Torii in right.

8:39PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 3 out – Ten pitch at bat but Vogt goes down swinging to end the inning. Gives Verlander his 11th strikeout of the game. Got to just tip your cap, Vogt kept fighting and fighting. Verlander is now up to 117 pitches (for comparison’s sake Gray is just at 97) and while Leyland may not care about pitch counts as much as another guy, Verlander has just exceeded 117 pitches in five of his starts this year with a high water mark of 126 way back in April in Seattle.

8:42PM PDT – Top of 8th, 0 out – Awkward infield hit to start the inning. Kelly hits it back to Gray and it bounces off of him and Sogard can’t change directions and Kelly ends up on first.

8:44PM PDT – Top of 8th, 1 out – Iglesias with the sacrifice bunt to move Kelly to second with the top of the Tigers order due up. Now Iglesias sacrificing makes sense. 21 bunts in his career which is only 465 plate appearances old. Probably explains why he was successful in laying it down – he has had four this year alone.

8:45PM PDT – Top of 8th, 2 out – Good news for A’s fans is that it appears as if Verlander’s night is through. The bullpen of Detroit is solid but not exceptional and Verlander right now represents exceptional so its an improvement to the A’s chances. Final numbers on Verlander: seven innings, four hits, one walk and eleven K’s for a 0.33 FIP to go with a .286 BABIP and minuscule 7.7% GB% (Verlander must be a fan of the marine layer). Meanwhile in the at bat, Gray got robbed on the fourth pitch, a curve in the top inside corner which should have struck out Jackson. The better news is that Gray records his ninth strikeout getting the golden sombrero from Jackson on the sixth pitch of the at bat. Meanwhile, Sean Doolittle is up and warming.

8:49PM PDT – Top of 8th, 3 out – Crisis averted as Hunter pops out to Moss at first. Eight shutout innings for Gray. Wonder if he will be out to start the ninth with Cabrera due up. It wouldn’t make sense to me to throw out the lefty Doolittle to face Cabrera, maybe Gray to face Cabrera and then Doolittle to face Prince? We will see.

8:52PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 0 out – New pitcher for the Tigers is Drew Smyly. New hitter for the A’s is Callaspo. Yesterday this same matchup resulted in a Callaspo strikeout. Smyly faced three batters last night, striking out two and walking one on 15 pitches. Grant Balfour is warming up for the A’s in the pen so Melvin must be hoping for big things in this bottom half.

8:54PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 0 out – I liked the Callaspo/Verlander matchup more than the Sogard/Verlander matchup. I had no real opinion regarding Smyly against either of those two. But Callaspo rips a double into left field to lead off the inning. Big at bat. Runner in scoring position top of the order due up.

8:56PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 0 out – I agree entirely with the crew. Cabrera is playing back. Iglesias is trying to hold Callaspo at second. A bunt not only works as a sacrifice but seemingly could result in a base hit with Coco hitting from his weak side. I don’t understand why you would bunt with Reddick but won’t here. I know the DP isn’t in play on this one whereas it was with Reddick up but this seems prime opportunity to bunt.

8:57PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 1 out – Foul out to right around the Tigers bench. Bad at bat. Why no bunt here?

9:01PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 1 out – Smyly gets Lowrie to 3-2 before losing him on an inside pitch. Looked up Smyly’s numbers with a full count and he too has a negative K/BB ratio at 0.97 with a full count. Maybe this is a thing? As his overall mark is 3.50. Last batter Smyly will face as Leyland is going to get Al Alburquerque out of the pen. Smyly’s line: one third of an inning with a hit and walk allowed. Smyly is responsible for the two runners on but Alburquerque has allowed 35% of his inherited runners to score this year (14 of 40). On the year Alburquerque sports a 4.59 ERA and a 3.72 FIP backed by 12.9 K/9, 6.2 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 in 49 innings of work.

9:07PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 2 out – Really bad at bat from Donaldson as Alburquerque records the Tigers’ twelfth strikeout. It just seemed like he went to the plate with little to no approach. All comes down to Moss now in this inning. Not the worst guy to have up in this situation.

9:10PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 3 out – Another A’s strikeout. Moss ends the inning on a nasty pitch from Alburquerque.

9:13PM PDT – Top of 9th, 0 out – Balfour is in for the A’s. 65 games this year for him, pitching 62 2/3 innings of 10.3 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 baseball for a 2.59 ERA that is a bit off his 3.49 FIP. Scary stuff though (small sample size warning) as those due up have hit Balfour very well: Cabrera 13 plate appearances: .222/.462/.222, Fielder four plate appearances: .500/.750/.500 and Martinez 10 plate appearances: .500/.600/.500.

9:15PM PDT – Top of 9th, 1 out – Crazy deep with the outfielders. Reddick runs in however and gets Cabrera out. Went a long way for what would normally be a routiner.

9:16PM PDT – Top of 9th, 2 out – Fly out for Prince now to Cespedes and two down in the ninth.

9:18PM PDT – Top of 9th, 3 out – 1-2-3 inning. Phew. Martinez flies out to Reddick and the inning is over. He cut through those three with little issue, which one could have assumed might not be the case given their career numbers against him.

9:23PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Cespedes has been the A’s only offense this entire series it seems and he does it again with a base hit past Cabrera into right field. Good position to wrap this game up.

9:25PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Smith sneaks it past a diving Fielder at first. It rolls towards the corner but Hunter cuts it off to keep Smith at first and allows Cespedes get to third. A sac fly, and infield grounder, anything will score Cespedes.

9:26PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Reddick is intentionally walked. Makes sense to me. Lets you get the out anywhere. It already is an awful situation, this doesn’t make it worse, it makes it easier to mitigate. Leyland is canning Alburquerque and going with Rick Porcello with Vogt due up. Porcello who has just three bullpen outings this year in 32 games, has thrown 177 innings featuring 7.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 good for a 4.32 ERA and 3.53 FIP.

9:31PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Vogt single! A’s win!

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