Preview: A’s @ Tigers ALDS Game 3
The A’s got a great win on Saturday night with Sonny Gray matching Justin Verlander pitch for pitch to keep the A’s in the game. The man who looked for a while to be the unsung hero was Stephen Vogt, who had a huge throw to nab Jose Iglesias attempting to steal second to end an inning and despite eventually striking out, really drove up Verlander’s pitch count with a great at bat perhaps hastening his departure. Vogt of course got the winning hit so went from unsung hero to “official” hero, but nonetheless without that key caught stealing there may not have been an opportunity for that hit at the end of the ballgame. The A’s need to play better offensively, but one could argue the same is true of the Tigers so it seems this game will again come down to pitching. Another good matchup with Jarrod Parker taking on Anibal Sanchez where one can argue again the slight edge goes to Detroit. What is really scary about the Tigers pitching is that one could quite reasonably argue that Verlander was their third best pitcher this season. Sanchez with 6.2 WAR was second in the AL to his teammate and Game One starter Max Scherzer, his 2.57 ERA led the AL, as did his 0.4 HR/9 and his 2.39 FIP, while his 10.0 K/9 was good for third on the junior circuit. The road doesn’t get any easier for the A’s in other words facing the Tigers’ “number three”.
The thing the A’s need to do, seems unlikely given the statistics just mentioned, but is to reduce their strikeouts. The A’s have struck out 29 of 68 trips to the plate for an unsightly 42.6% K% in these first two games. The A’s are hitting an anemic .177/.250/.274 with every batter owning at least one strikeout and Brandon Moss leading the way with an awful six in eight plate appearances. The Tigers aren’t really hitting that much better (.219/.254/.250) so the A’s at least have that going for them. Bob Melvin filled out his lineup card as follows: Coco Crisp CF, Josh Donaldson 3B, Jed Lowrie SS, Moss 1B, Yoenis Cespedes LF, Seth Smith DH, Josh Reddick RF, Vogt C, Eric Sogard 2B. Not sure what good the swap of Donaldson and Lowrie will do, Donaldson at 1-for-8 with 4 K’s is slightly better than Lowrie at 0-for-7 with a BB and 3 K’s but there is no major gripe there – and my guess this is based on history versus Sanchez, though if that were so for me at least I’d be more inclined to have Donaldson in the three spot. The only gripe is again why is Sogard in there to start? Alberto Callaspo hit a pinch hit double that is the only non-Cespedes extra base hit in the series. Can’t understand keeping him on the bench over Sogard (0-for-4 with a K). It’d seem defensive differences wouldn’t make that big a difference but perhaps with the way the offenses are going the thought process is more on limiting runs versus scoring them? The A’s haven’t hit Sanchez that terribly given his skill level with Donaldson (5-for-11 1 BB, 2 K’s) and Smith (7-for-19 with 3 HRs, 2 BBs and 4 K’s) leading the way.
Jim Leyland counters with one minor change as he trots out: Austin Jackson CF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Jhonny Peralta LF, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B and Jose Iglesias SS. The change of course being that perhaps Leyland’s viewpoint is different and he feels he can jumpstart his offense by sacrifcing some defense with the insertion of Peralta in left field. Peralta has played 18 2/3 innings of his MLB fielding career (9,990 2/3 innings) or in other words 0.2% in left field. So this is learning on the fly. While Sanchez has done a decent job setting down current members of the A’s, Parker has struggled with those who currently sport a Tigers uniform (.291/.351/.442). Ironically Parker has Peralta’s number (1-for-9, 2 BBs, 2 K’s) but otherwise aside from Prince the Tigers have fared well. Parker will need to dig deep and find some mojo to set down Detroit. Go A’s!