Listen to the new A's Podcast: TVPRCRPP
The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan has teamed up with @oakfaninva to create a new A's podcast called The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan Podcast! Click here to give it a listen! It should be updated roughly every week or two so stay tuned!
Good win yesterday afternoon as the A’s bats finally came alive tagging Anibal Sanchez for three home runs. It was good stuff and the A’s hope it continues today. Last night in Los Angeles, Don Mattingly – who seems to be on the hot seat – opted to start his ace Clayton Kershaw to “ensure” a Dodgers victory over Atlanta. While I don’t care for wins and losses as a telling statistic, the point is that the Dodgers didn’t win because of Kershaw. In fact when he left the Dodgers and Braves were tied. Would Ricky Nolasco have blown it? Not necessarily. Could he have put up numbers that are no different than those that Kershaw put up? Sure why not. I disagreed with the decision as the Dodgers had they lost could still head to Atlanta and throw Kershaw there in a Game Five. That said, one could make the argument for Jim Leyland to go to his ace in Max Scherzer on short rest as the Tigers face a win or go home situation – he is said to be contemplating using him out of the bullpen which would result in Justin Verlander starting Game Five (what an awful backup plan for the poor Tigers there). Regardless of that fact the Tigers will go with Doug Fister, who is far from a bad number four starter as he put up a 3.67 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 208 2/3 innings of 6.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 baseball this season for a solid 4.5 WAR. He will square off against the weakest link in the A’s playoff rotation: Dan Straily who threw 152 1/3 innings of 7.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 baseball to add up to a 3.96 ERA and 4.05 FIP and 1.9 WAR in 2013.
Bob Melvin trots out the same lineup as last night as well – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it: Coco Crisp CF, Josh Donaldson 3B, Jed Lowrie SS, Brandon Moss 1B, Yoenis Cespedes LF, Seth Smith DH, Josh Reddick RF, Stephen Vogt C, Eric Sogard 2B. It is clear that run prevention is being favored over offensive production but can we say that strategy has worked? The A’s took the lead with Alberto Callaspo in the lead, so if you take out game two it seems a 50/50 proposition that it works out. As we all know, I am not a big fan of Sogard who is now 0-for-8 in this ALDS. Especially given their history against Fister (Callaspo, 6-for-17 with a HR; Sogard 2-for-8) I’d again rather see Callaspo in the lineup. The other A’s have some experience against Fister from his time with the Mariners and have hit him rather well as Coco has a 7-for-19 with two triples mark against him and Lowrie has hit 4-for-12 with two doubles off the lanky righty.
Leyland is sending out the same lineup that he did last night sticking with his offense first philosophy: Austin Jackson CF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Jhonny Peralta LF, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B, Jose Iglesias SS. These Tigers have hit well against Straily with in particular Hunter hitting in exceptionally well: 10 plate appearances where he has hit 7-for-10 with a double and three home runs, his only outs being via the strikeout (three). Straily will need to solve Hunter and the rest of today’s lineup who are hitting a combined .429/.467/.786 against him (that said a lot of those numbers are Hunter numbers from his time with the Angels). Those are some scary numbers. Straily got a win in his only game against Detroit this year on August 28th in Detroit though he wasn’t that sharp (1.50 ERA but a 4.88 FIP) in six innings of one run, eight hit (including a HR) two walk and four strikeout performance. Big concern for me is if the wind is blowing like it was yesterday a fly ball pitcher like Straily who has a history of surrendering home runs (1.3 HR/9 in his career, 1.0 this year) could have some trouble with the Detroit potent lineup – despite their recent troubles.
A’s need to win one of the next two games in Comerica Park or this series is done – might as well win this one. Jarrod Parker is on the hill for an early game against Anibal Sanchez. Got to say that I loved the MLB Network intro to this game, the Field of Dreams intro was great and Matt Vasgersian and Jim Kaat are a good crew too. Looks like a nice day in Detroit, I miss the Michigan weather this time of year so hopefully the A’s can send the Tigers’ fans home to enjoy a nice crisp day of raking leaves or looking out over their lake with some warm cider.
10:08AM PDT – Top of 1st, 0 out – Great start for the A’s as Coco Crisp lines it into the gap in right field past the reach of a diving Torii Hunter. Leadoff double. With the offensive woes that is a nice change to see to start a game. It’d be good to get to Sanchez and get a run in and sort of break that mental roadblock that run scoring seems to have been thus far this series.
10:10AM PDT – Top of 1st, 1 out – Awesome to hear Kaat acknowledge that Josh Donaldson has “MVP credentials” as he put it. The crew in Oakland neglected to mention that fawning over Miguel Cabrera, who Donaldson grounds out to, keeping Coco stranded on second.
10:11AM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Some warning track power was exhibited by Jed Lowrie there. Nice toss from Torii but Coco gets into third no problem. So a “productive out”. While I don’t buy into that whole theory, this out is better than one I suppose where Crisp doesn’t advance, but is it really a big deal if he goes from second to third? I am not entirely sure it makes a huge difference. Brandon Moss isn’t about to get a run scoring infield hit.
10:15AM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – I guess there is some value in having Coco on third. Alex Avila nearly lost a pitch in that sequence to Moss which could have been a passed ball that would’ve scored a run with consequential passed ball/wild pitches being something these two clubs saw a lot in Detroit in last year’s ALDS.
10:16AM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Good job by Moss to battle back and draw the walk. The A’s need to keep making sure that they don’t give any clean innings to Sanchez. Don’t let him get into a groove the way Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander did. Things just snowball and look more impossible when that happens. That sort of is what happened with Bartolo Colon in Game One, the Tigers rattled him but he recouped. This could be the A’s shot at Sanchez.
10:18AM PDT – Top of 1st, 3 out – Here we go again with the strikeouts? Sanchez gets Yoenis Cespedes to swing and miss with some high heat to end the threat.
10:23AM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 1 out – Beautiful changeup from Parker to get Austin Jackson to go fishing. Jackson is having a miserable series (1-for-8 and 5 Ks) and he is a tough one for Parker to face (.545/.583/1.000 with a HR, 1 BB and 2 Ks in 12 plate appearances).
10:24PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 2 out – First pitch swinging and Hunter grounds out to Donaldson at third.
10:25AM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 2 out – Cabrera laces one down the left field into the corner. With Cabrera hurting that is a very very long single. Normally a no doubt double.
10:27AM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 3 out – Infield fly out for Prince Fielder and the inning and any threat is neutralized. Good quick inning for Parker with the damage limited to a Cabrera single. Can’t ever complain about getting beat by Cabrera and a single is particularly kind.
10:31AM PDT – Top of 2nd, 0 out – Base hit from Seth Smith into right field. Smith has had a ton of success (7-for-19 with 3 HRs, 2 BBs and 4 Ks) against Sanchez so that continues. He could be a key piece for the A’s in this one. Good to have back to back innings with base hits. It seems like a deluge the way this series has gone thus far.
10:33AM PDT – Top of 2nd, 1 out - Josh Reddick flies it out the warning track in left field and Jhonny Peralta circled under it some but it landed in his glove. Looks like it could be interesting out there for him with some winds and the bright sky.
10:35AM PDT – Top of 2nd, 2 out - Stephen Vogt goes fishing. At least the A’s aren’t averaging a K every other batter.
10:36AM PDT – Top of 2nd, 3 out – Fly out from Eric Sogard to Peralta in left. I love that Peralta called off Jackson to get it. Getting brave out there.
10:43AM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 1 out - Victor Martinez hits it to left field opposite field and a relative long way that Cespedes had to go to get to it but he did.
10:44AM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 2 out – Ground out for Peralta. So on defense he is doing fine, on offense he has contributed nothing yet. Love how baseball can be that way.
10:45AM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 3 out – 1-2-3 as Avila hits it right into the shift at Sogie. Another good quick inning for Parker who is off to a good start. Nineteen straight scoreless innings for A’s pitchers.
10:50AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 0 out – Coco plunks it into shallow center. Another inning with the A’s getting a leadoff hit. Eventually that results in runs so it is a good way to start off every inning.
10:53AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 0 out – Stolen base for Coco! Really didn’t look safe to be honest though the replay makes the call look a bit better. Crisp was 21 of 26 this year (80.8%) and that is his first steal of the postseason.
10:54AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 0 out – Donaldson draws a walk so it is first and second with no one out. This is a lot more offense than we have seen these past few days. Sanchez is not look so hot. The A’s might be able to get into the more porous Tigers bullpen faster than expected.
10:57AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 1 out – Tough strikeout for Lowrie. Ball looked inside but you can’t let a pitch that close go. Tough series for Lowrie who now is 0-for-9 in the ALDS.
10:59AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 2 out – Another Moss strikeout – his seventh of the series – and Sanchez’ fourth.
11:01AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 2 out – Cabrera is not a great fielder and he shows it off on that play with the ball skipping over his glove and into left field. Coco scores from second. I have to assume that is scored an error and so no RBI for Cespedes. A’s up 1-0!
11:05AM PDT – Top of 3rd, 3 out – He battled and the pitch count for Sanchez goes up but ultimately Smith strikes out, and as has always been the case driving up pitch counts doesn’t necessarily win ballgames. The A’s plate one in the inning and that is a commanding lead as far as this series is concerned.
11:10AM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 1 out – Fly out from Omar Infante into right field. Five in a row set down for Parker.
11:12AM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 2 out – Jose Iglesias is really fast. A routine grounder to Lowrie who didn’t really have to move and Iglesias made the play somewhat close.
11:13AM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 3 out – 1-2-3 inning. Nice play by Lowrie to get the ball spin and throw out Jackson at first. Parker is looking locked in. Good to see as he is now pitching with a lead.
11:17AM PDT – Top of 4th, 0 out – A’s continue to get the lead off hitter on base. Well, they don’t get the lead off hitter on base as Reddick takes Anibal deep over the right field fence and head of Hunter. Sanchez led the league with HR/9 this year at just 0.4 (that was nine he allowed all year), so nice work by Josh to take him yard.
11:18AM PDT – Top of 4th, 0 out – The A’s remember that every Vogt counts. Vogt almost got it out of the park too but it hit against the wall and then took a weird carom and just rolled to Jackson and Vogt manages to get a triple. Vogt had one triple during the season – go figure. In 2011 split between Montgomery and Durham he had seven triples, so there you have that.
11:20AM PDT – Top of 4th, 1 out – Ugh. Sogard. Infield is playing in and the ground out to Infante at second keeps Vogt stuck at third. Meanwhile Rick Porcello is warming up for the Tigers out in the bullpen. Sanchez has not looked sharp but he also hasn’t looked “dump him in the fourth inning” bad.
11:21AM PDT – Top of 4th, 2 out – Coco lofts it to left field. Peralta settles under it. Vogt goes for it. Not a pretty play in the least but Peralta shows off a bad arm and Vogt beats the throw. A’s up 3-0.
11:22AM PDT – Top of 4th, 3 out – Donaldson flies out to Hunter in right field to end the inning. A’s up with three runs matching their total from all the games in Oakland.
11:27AM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 0 out – Good solid base hit from Hunter into left field to open the Tigers’ fourth inning. Breaks up seven straight set down by Parker who has to be careful now with the meat of Detroit’s order due up.
11:29AM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 1 out – Cabrera smacked that one and with most other guys I’d be thinking it is the fans overreacting that is an outfield fly but with Cabrera you just never know, it might keep going and going. But alas it falls into Coco’s glove for a loud out number one.
11:34AM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 1 out – Interesting stat they provided that Fielder has the longest consecutive game streak in baseball at 505 games. If anyone added his name into a four answer multiple choice and none of the others are obvious and frequent DL visitors I don’t think I’d ever pick Prince. But it isn’t the consecutive games mark that mattered here it was Fielder’s opposite field hit that got Hunter to third. Donaldson had a nice give it his all attempt in the middle of a very good at bat from Prince, and thankfully didn’t injure himself as feet and knees met wall. This is the first mess for Parker really, Martinez is a good candidate for a double play however that could help Oakland exit this jam.
11:36AM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 1 out – It is loud in Detroit. Martinez hits it past Moss at first. Hunter scores and Fielder goes to third. Detroit cuts down the Oakland lead to 3-1.
11:38AM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 1 out – Peralta makes his manager Jim Leyland look good with a base hit to left field towards the corner that is good enough to score both Fielder and Martinez and tie this game at three. In one inning Detroit matches their run total from their past two games now.
11:42PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 2 out – Nice play by Donaldson on a check swing that resulted in a ground out from Avila. Peralta advanced to second and into scoring position on the play as Parker needs to get Infante to end the inning.
11:44AM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 3 out – Damage is done. Tigers tie it. But on his 26th pitch of the inning Parker gets Infante to ground out and end the frame.
11:49AM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Sixth strikeout of the game for Sanchez as he gets Lowrie down on strikes. This is the first inning where the A’s have failed to get the leadoff runner on base.
11:51AM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Finally! Moss launches one. Hunter just stops dead in his tracks doesn’t even move. No doubter. Silenced the Comerica crowd. Half way up the right field bleacher which I will tell you from having been there is a long way. A’s regain the lead at 4-3. Remember Sanchez had just 0.4 HR/9 this season. Second of the game. Sanchez last gave up two home runs in a game September 9th, 2012 in Anaheim when Mike Trout and current Athletic but then Angel Alberto Callaspo took him deep.
11:53AM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Base hit for Yoenis Cespedes as the A’s keep hard on Sanchez who is at 96 pitches now.
11:59AM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Wow. Great at bat from Smith. Smith was the Sanchez killer and with that the A’s have their third home run of the ballgame off Sanchez who is booted from the ballgame. Opposite field into the bullpen in left. What could’ve been a fly out when the stadium opened in 2000 (I sat out that way for the first ever game at Comerica Park), but what is a two run home run that gives Oakland a 6-3 lead today! Sanchez last gave up three home runs in one game in his Tigers debut on July 28th, 2012 in Toronto when he gave up dingers to Edwin Encarnacion, Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus. Final line on Sanchez: four and third innings, six runs, five of them earned, on eight hits (including the three home runs) and two walks with six strikeouts adding up to an ugly 10.38 ERA and uglier 10.66 FIP.
12:02PM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out- New pitcher is the lefty Jose Alvarez. Alvarez got into 14 games for the Tigers (six of them starts) throwing 38 2/3 innings of 5.82 ERA, 5.19 FIP baseball backed by 7.2 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and 1.6 HR/9. With the way the ball is carrying this afternoon, that 1.6 HR/9 could come into play. Hey if a guy with 0.4 HR/9 gets tagged for three what happens to a guy already tagged for 1.6 HR/9?
12:04PM PDT – Top of 5th, 2 out – The lefty on lefty works as Alvarez K’s Reddick.
12:06PM PDT – Top of 5th, 2 out – Vogt draws a walk from Alvarez. Interesting to see that Bob Melvin didn’t pinch hit for him there.
12:07PM PDT – Top of 5th, 3 out – Fly out for Sogard to end the inning. A’s double their run total and get back Detroit’s runs hopefully breaking their spirit a little and leading to victory.
12:10PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 1 out – Fly out to left field from Iglesias to Cespedes. Parker needs a 1-2-3 to really shut down the Tigers here and get the A’s offense back on the field and Leyland’s bullpen back on their heels.
12:13PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 1 out – There goes any hope of a 1-2-3 as Parker loses the handle and walks Jackson. Not a guy to put on, not that anyone really is. Parker has got himself out of jams previously and can do so again.
12:15PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 3 out – Big double play. 5-4-3. Hunter grounds out and the threat is gone. Nice to have Cabrera up with the bases empty as opposed to anyone on. Huge play.
12:18PM PDT – Top of 6th, 1 out – Iglesias makes a nice play to get Coco. Interesting that Kaat is complimenting the fielding of Derek Jeter to compare Iglesias given that there is much discussion that Jeter is absurdly overrated. I agree that Jeter is overrated but Iglesias really is not. He is the real deal. For Oakland meanwhile Dan Otero is warming in the bullpen. Rick Porcello is still warming for the Tigers.
12:21PM PDT – Top of 6th, 2 out – Ball really is carrying as Donaldson lofts one to the right center warning track for a long out number two.
12:23PM PDT – Top of 6th, 3 out – Lowrie’s woes continue as he flies out to right field to end the inning.
12:25PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 0 out – Otero is in. Parker is out. Parker threw just 73 pitches (47 for strikes) in five innings of three earned run, five hit, one walk and one K baseball. Otero meanwhile, pitched to four batters in Game One and retired them all.
12:26PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 1 out – Cabrera grounds out to Lowrie. I gotta say I think Lowrie is underrated (total eyeball comment) as a defender though both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference disagree with me.
12;29PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 1 out – Base hit right up the middle for Fielder. Lowrie nearly got to that. Maybe going back to Jeter it is like the difference between Jeter and Brendan Ryan where Jeter has trouble getting to things so he makes it look great, whereas Ryan makes a lot of tough plays look routine.
12:30PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 3 out – 3-6 double play. Weird double play but well done by Moss who stepped on the bag to retire Martinez then tossed it to Lowrie who made a nice pick to apply the tag to Fielder. Inning over. Nice play.
12:34PM PDT – Top of 7th, 1 out – Moss goes down swinging again. His moon shot home run means it is all forgiven.
12:37PM PDT – Top of 7th, 2 out – I was surprised to see Leyland leave Alvarez in against Cespedes with Porcello apparently warm in the bullpen. Alvarez was a starter in MiLB and as mentioned earlier started six games for Detroit this year so he clearly has to face guys regardless of their handedness. But still you have Porcello ready, why not? Well Leyland proves me wrong, as does Alvarez I suppose, as he K’s Cespedes.
12:38PM PDT – Top of 7th, 3 out – Smith grounds out to second base to end the inning. It is stretch time in Detroit.
12:41PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 1 out – Great play by Moss right there on a very tough short hop. Peralta is set down on the first pitch of the seventh. A’s are cruising.
12:44PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 2 out – Kaat and Vasgersian are all caught up talking about shifts on Avila. Otero makes them all moot with a strikeout.
12:45PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 2 out – Base hit to right field for Infante. Third hit in the series for Infante who has quietly had a decent series.
12:46PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 3 out – Another nice play by Donaldson to field the broken bat infield hit and throw out that speedy Iglesias at first. Nice play by Moss too to corral a throw that was a little high.
12:49PM PDT – Top of 8th, 1 out – Reddick flies out as Alvarez is still on the hill for the Tigers. Meanwhile the A’s have Sean Doolittle warming in the bullpen.
12:50PM PDT- Top of 8th, 1 out – Derek Norris comes in to pinch hit and Leyland pulls Alvarez to get the righty Jose Veras in. Norris has been a great pinch hitter for Oakland but with a 3-for-15 line one might not think that is all that great. All three of those hits were home runs and furthermore Norris has yet to strike out and has drawn three walks. Veras meanwhile split this season between Houston and Detroit where has put up a combined ERA of 3.02, FIP of 3.62, along with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, and 0.9 HR/9 in 62 2/3 innings. He has 25 shutdowns to nine meltdowns not that that really is in play in this game.
12:54PM PDT – Top of 8th, 2 out – Well Norris has his first strikeout as a pinch hitter in 2013.
12:57PM PDT – Top of 8th, 3 out – Sogard grounds out to Fielder who runs it to first to end the inning.
1:00PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 0 out – Norris is now catching for the A’s and he is catching a new pitcher as Doolittle comes out. Doolittle pitched an inning and two thirds in Game One striking out three of the six batters he faced. He comes in to face the top of the Tigers order. The shutdowns and meltdowns have some relevance to this Doolittle outing so on the year he has a 28:10 ratio.
1:01PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 1 out – Doolittle K’s Jackson. Four of seven he has faced down on Ks.
1:04PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 1 out – Full count and Hunter draws a walk from Doolittle with an inside pitch. Doesn’t get easy for Doolittle now as he has to face Cabrera.
1:05PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 2 out – Great pitch from Doolittle who hurls a high fastball that Cabrera falls for and pops up to first base for the inning’s first out. The air comes out of the proverbial balloon.
1:07PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 3 out – A leap and Lowrie comes down with the Fielder hit that looked destined for short left center field. Inning over.
1:12PM PDT – Top of 9th, 0 out – Leadoff double for Coco. His second double of the game into the right field corner. It’d be nice to see a few insurance runs here rendering a Grant Balfour (who is warming in the pen) outing meaningless as far as a save is concerned.
1:13PM PDT – Top of 9th, 0 out – Iglesias ranges far to his right on a ball in the hole and then loses his footing and it’ll be an infield hit for Donaldson. Albeit one that keeps Coco planted at second base. Nice opportunity to get a few runs though and put this game away.
1:17PM PDT – Top of 9th, 1 out – Luke Putkonen is throwing for Detroit if this one gets out of hand and Ryan Cook is doing the same for the A’s. Hat trick meanwhile for Lowrie striking out yet again. Still 0-fer in the series.
1:19PM PDT – Top of 9th, 2 out – Veras is recovering nicely from a sloppy start to the inning as he K’s Moss as well.
1:23PM PDT – Top of 9th, 3 out – Weird play. Cespedes grounded out to Cabrera who thought of tagging out Coco but then didn’t. With that slight hesitation it seems a full speed running Cespedes could have made it. Hopefully that oversight does not become an issue as this game continues.
1:26PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Balfour is in to lock down the save. 33 shutdowns with five meltdowns on the season for him. Balfour earned the victory in Game Two, after he pitched a perfect ninth inning with the game tied. To shore up the defense Melvin puts Daric Barton over at first base. Due up for Detroit: Martinez, Peralta and Avila.
1:29PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Well now. Something happened there. Unclear what it was. Something happened and Martinez and Balfour started yelling “f**k you bitch” at one another. Benches clear! In the playoffs no less! Wow! Don’t like this for the A’s. Need to just have everything be calm and get it all done. Strange. BALFOUR RAGE.
1:31PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 1 out – And Martinez lines out to Reddick. Drama over. Sit down. Take a seat.
1:35PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 2 out – Balfour elevated and Peralta chased. Strikeout. BALFOUR RAGE.
1:38PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 2 out – Balfour gets Avila down 0-2, but Avila fights back and draws a walk. Tying run still on deck for Detroit with Infante at the plate but Don Kelly and not Iglesias on deck.
1:40PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 3 out – Fly out to right field. A’s win. A’s take a 2-1 lead. In the past ten times there has been a tie 1-1 series, the team that has won Game Three has won nine times so things look good for Detroit. Wonder if Leyland goes to Scherzer for Game Four or if he sticks with Doug Fister?
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!
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.
6:14PM 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!
Game One did not end the way A’s fans would have hoped but if we are honest with ourselves the outcome wasn’t entirely surprising either. This year’s best pitcher pitched exceptionally well and the A’s hitters for the most part fell for every pitching sequence strategy in the book striking out sixteen times. In fact 48.5% of A’s plate appearances ended with them walking back to the dugout bat in hand. That is not a recipe for winning. It doesn’t get much easier for Oakland as tonight they face Justin Verlander who stymied the A’s bats last year twice in the ALDS. This year the A’s did get to Verlander and win one of the two outings against him, but still Verlander’s numbers against Oakland should give one pause as the A’s hit a meager .171/.277/.293 against him. The point is the A’s have to win this game. Yesterday’s loss surrendered home field advantage to the Tigers, and while one can say that doesn’t mean much as the A’s went 3-1 in Detroit this year, they failed to win a game in Detroit last season in the ALDS and for what it is worth went 0-2 at Comerica Park in the 2006 ALCS as well.
Bob Melvin and the A’s will put out a lineup of, Coco Crisp CF, Jed Lowrie SS, Josh Donaldson 3B, Brandon Moss 1B, Yoenis Cespedes LF, Seth Smith DH, Josh Reddick RF, Stephen Vogt C and Eric Sogard 2B to face Verlander. Yesterday Daric Barton looked awful so he is replaced by Smith which is a move I don’t mind though in limited action their numbers against Verlander barely differ and are equally hapless (Smith hitting .133/.381/.333 with a HR in 21 plate appearances while Barton put up .143/.333/.214 in 18 trips to the plate). I probably would have rather seen Alberto Callaspo (.211/.286/.211 in 21 plate appearances) over Sogard (0-for-7 in seven plate appearances) but that move isn’t a huge gripe. It was a down year for Verlander who managed just a 13-12 record (surprising just for such a good pitcher on such a good team, that is the sort of W-L you expect from an ace on a subpar team) while throwing 218 1/3 innings of 9.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 baseball for a 3.46 ERA and 3.28 FIP. His BABIP was up to .316 (second highest of his career) and his GB% was lower than it had been since 2009, the same year he had his highest BABIP leading one to believe that wasn’t entirely coincidental. In other words, a down year from Verlander would be a number one starter on virtually any other club in baseball, so it does not get easier for Oakland.
The A’s meanwhile take a big chance putting rookie Sonny Gray up against this incredible pitcher. While Verlander was a second overall first round pick, Gray was just an 18th overall first rounder. In his rookie year he has shown no fear putting up a 5-3 record across twelve appearances with ten being starts. In his 64 innings on the hill he has posted 9.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 numbers that we should note are better than Verlander as was his 2.67 ERA, 2.70 FIP, .276 BABIP and 52.9% GB%. Gray is good and fearless, and that is good because the Tigers have yet to face him which could give him a slight edge – though you never know with this sort of situation. Up against Gray will be: Austin Jackson CF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B, Don Kelly LF, Jose Iglesias SS.
A’s need to win this one, won’t be easy, but also not impossible. A’s need to cut down on the strikeouts and get more runners on base and they ought to have a fighting chance. The A’s simply can’t afford to go down 2-0 as they learned in last year’s ALDS when they fought back to even it out before Verlander shut them down to end the series. It is a Sonny Day in Oakland the A’s are wearing Gold. Go A’s!
Game is starting up. Upset to see that the A’s drew this crew for the national broadcasts: Buck Martinez, Don Orsillo and former A’s closer Dennis Eckersley. I don’t mind Orsillo, you can certainly do a lot worse, but as everyone who reads me knows I can’t stand Martinez, so it will be painful having to listen to him for at least three games. This looks to be an evenly matched series, have to give the edge to the Tigers in this one and the series care of that rotation they have. Nice to see the top deck open too. Go A’s!
6:39PM PDT – Top of 1st, 0 out – Leadoff double for Austin Jackson off of Bartolo Colon to start the game for Detroit on a 1-1 pitch. Jackson is a good ballplayer. Would’ve loved to have seen a 1-2-3 to start it off, shake off any rust as Colon hasn’t pitched in the postseason since 2005 with the Angels.
6:40PM PDT – Top of 1st, 0 out – Inauspicious beginning with a hit batter. Can’t say I mind Torii Hunter getting plunked. Not a big fan of his. That said, two men on and Miguel Cabrera up is a mess. First hit batter since May 20th of last year when Colon hit Buster Posey with a pitch in San Francisco.
6:41PM PDT – Top of 1st, 0 out – That was quick. Detroit scores and is up 1-0 as Cabrera hits it through Colon’s wickets right up the middle. That was a quick mess and it now men on the corners for Prince Fielder (doesn’t get much easier for Colon or the A’s).
6:42PM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Big double play right there to get Prince on the 6-4-3 out of fielder. Thing is another run scores and Detroit makes it 2-0.
6:45PM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Opposite field double to left-center field for Victor Martinez over Jed Lowrie‘s glove. Tough spot. Colon does not look like he is in his zone at all. Remember this Tigers team has had individual success hitting against Colon and it shows right now.
6:46PM PDT – Top of 1st, 2 out – Detroit 3, Oakland 0. Daric Barton needed to make that play. His defense is supposed to really be his sweet spot and it gets by him and Eric Sogard for a run scoring single from Alex Avila. What a mess. Awful start. Really kills any fan excitement and neutralizes the home field advantage.
6:47PM PDT – Top of 1st, 3 out – The underrated Omar Infante grounds out and the bleeding stops.
6:53PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 1 out – Max Scherzer has allowed fewer than three runs in 21 of his 32 starts this year, so it isn’t looking good early. When he allows four or more runs the Tigers are 3-3 so the A’s know their work is cut out for them to even make it even. Big full count strike out of Coco Crisp there.
6:56PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 2 out – Already growing tired of the “quick narrative” aspect of this broadcast: Scherzer looks Sharp/Colon looks out of sync. It’ll continue unless the A’s get to Scherzer. While it is fair, we also have seen one and two thirds innings of pitching.
6:57PM PDT – Bottom of 1st, 3 out – Weak ground out for Josh Donaldson. 1-2-3 for Scherzer. Good response from the Tigers to really kill any good feelings in the A’s clubhouse.
7:00PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 1 out – Great to get the first K for Colon there on Andy Dirks. Hopefully that is him settling down and getting things done. For what it is worth Colon has only had nine starts where has has allowed three or more runs this season out of his 30.
7:04PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 2 out – Nice play by Lowrie to get the speedy Jose Iglesias. Great stretch by Barton, who needs to shake off that first inning fielding miscue (though it was fairly ruled a single it was a ball Barton normally gets).
7:06PM PDT – Top of 2nd, 3 out – There is the 1-2-3 inning the A’s needed as A’s get Jackson to ground out. Hopefully this is a sign of some settling down for the A’s.
7:10PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 1 out – Brandon Moss set down on strikes. I love the use of stupid meaningless stats in these broadcasts. The stat of the night is pitchers per game by starting pitchers, a category the Tigers apparently lead with 103.0 pitches coming out of their starters each game, then the crew laughs at the White Sox being second at 100.7 (for what it is worth Oakland lands at 94.8 per game). The White Sox first off, have pretty good starting pitching lest we forget, despite their record which is more a reflection of their offense being inconsistent than their pitching lacking. But regardless there is a slew of reasons a team could have a high pitch count for starters. It can be true of teams that are very good or teams that are very bad. It says absolutely nothing. A strikeout pitcher will throw more pitches than a pitch to contact guy. One can argue the strikeout pitcher will see more success but that isn’t necessarily true, so that stat told us absolutely nothing but now poses as intelligent baseball discussion. I suppose I fed the raccoon on that one by this long comment about it.
7:12PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 1 out – Triple for Yoenis Cespedes! Si Cespedes! Dirks looks terrible fielding that. He should’ve prepped for the carom. Jhonny Peralta could’ve fielded that as cleanly. A’s need to take advantage and chip away. Josh Reddick has to do anything to avoid the strikeout.
7:14PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 2 out – What can’t Reddick do here? Strikeout. What did Reddick do here? Strikeout.
7:18PM PDT – Bottom of 2nd, 3 out – Stephen Vogt didn’t miss a double down the line by much but gets out one a hard line out to Prince at first. Vogt is a great story and it’d be nice to see him shine in the playoffs as he likely gets the start in all five guys with the Tigers’ rotation being all right handed.
7:23PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 1 out – Nice pitch to get Torii to chase. That is a great pitch. Second K on the game. Can’t have any baserunners on with Cabrera up. Cabrera scares me. As he should every opposing pitcher or fan of any opposing team.
7:25PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 2 out – Cabrera flies to center but, the broadcasters are going to debate Cabrera and Mike Trout for MVP. Let’s all ignore the fact that another third baseman who just happens to be playing in this very game (Donaldson) has a higher WAR (7.7) than Cabrera (7.6) and is probably more integral to his team’s success than Cabrera was with how much he carried their respective club. One can make a very solid case for Donaldson (though I’d make the case for Trout as to me most valuable = the best), but saying that Cabrera is the “only one” on a winning team is just wrong.
7:27PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 2 out – Great hitting for Prince. Like to see people hit opposite field against the shift. Of course, I prefer to see the A’s do that. Unfortunate to not settle down with two straight 1-2-3′s.
7:29PM PDT – Top of 3rd, 3 out – Third strikeout as Colon gets VMart swinging. He is looking good. That Fielder hit really was fielder hitting as opposed to a mistake by Colon and while they end up the same in the box score it makes a difference for confidence’s sake to throw a good pitch and just get beat you tip your cap. To throw a mistake and get beat, in your mind is don’t make another mistake.
7:34PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 1 out – It sucks to see Barton strikeout looking. That is such a Barton thing to do. But are we really complaining that the problem with him was his on base percentage was too good? Really? Weak analysis. The problems with Barton are many, but his seeing a lot of pitches isn’t one of them. It’s his seeing pitches like that last one from Scherzer that are absurdly hittable.
7:36PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 2 out – Sogard and the A’s insist on going down relatively quietly with a weak ground out to make it two outs as the lineup turns over.
7:38PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 2 out – Coco draws a walk. Where is the confidence there? Ha! He sat there for a bit, was it a ball? Was it not? Can’t blame him on the borderline pitch and I guess it beats those guys who fling the bat then sheepishly have to recover it.
7:41PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 2 out – The first thing counted as a pickoff throw? It was like a shotput throw at best. Why even bother? The second one was a bit better but still unimpressive. It seems like Coco’s speed has sort of gotten into Scherzer’s head as he throws the wild pitch. That is the power of speed. Not the stolen base so much as the threat of it. Now a hole will open on the left side for Lowrie to hit through.
7:42PM PDT – Bottom of 3rd, 3 out – A hole on the left side. Lowrie grounds out to the right side and the inning is over. Scherzer has thrown three innings, allowed a hit, walked one and struck out four on 49 pitches with 32 being strikes. He is looking good and won’t be easy to beat.
7:45PM PDT – Top of 4th, 1 out – Avila hits into the shift to get the first out of the inning. Good quick start for Colon to continue to just get guys out. His only goal can be to keep the deficit at three and not let it grow at all.
7:48PM PDT – Top of 4th, 1 out – Infante taking 3-0 and did exactly what I laughed about earlier as he started for first before sheepishly going back into the box. But great battle from Colon to get from 3-0 back to 3-2. Nice play by Donaldson to make it even close, but the infield hit gives the Tigers yet another baserunner.
7:49PM PDT – Top of 4th, 2 out – Lazy fly ball to left field to get Dirks out.
7:50PM PDT – Top of 4th, 3 out – Iglesias ends the inning 6-3. Colon through four not as sharp as Scherzer with three runs (all earned) on six hits, with no walks and three strikeouts on 66 pitches, 43 for strikes.
7:54PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 1 out – That ball seemed outside, but Donaldson’s reaction seems overblown. It was a could go either way, it certainly wasn’t a clear cut he stole one from him. Five strikeouts for Scherzer who is really locked in. A’s need to start off an inning with a hit and make Scherzer work some.
7:56PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 2 out – Six strikeouts for Scherzer as he gets Moss swinging. Moss K’d 27.7% of the time this season, he is at 100.0% tonight.
7:59PM PDT – Bottom of 4th, 3 out – Seven strikeouts as Scherzer strikes out the side. Not a bad threesome to set down on strikes in Donaldson, Moss and Cespedes. Those are some solid hitters. Of course, Scherzer is probably near unanimous for American League Cy Young Award and I am a long believer in good pitching beats good hitting (see the Atlanta Braves, most of the 1990s and key bad hitting member of that team Tigers first base coach Rafael Belliard).
8:03PM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Fourth K for Colon as he gets Jackson looking. This would be a real pitchers duel if the top half of the first didn’t happen.
8:04PM PDT – Top of 5th, 1 out – Smart move by Hunter to get on base by taking advantage of Donaldson playing deep at third. Completely indefensible and an infield hit for Hunter. Dangerous part of Detroit’s lineup is due up. Could be a consequential hit.
8:09PM PDT – Top of 5th, 2 out – Cabrera eventually flies out, but that check swing was a big deal 2-1 versus 1-2 is a big deal. After 1-2 in his career even a great hitter like Cabrera is .230/.288/.387 compared to after 2-1 his hitting .295/.444/.550 The bigger deal was Cabrera swinging through on what could’ve been strike three on the next pitch. Fortunately the fly out rendered any question about that moot.
8:10PM PDT – Top of 5th, 3 out – Nice strike thrown by Colon as he nabs Hunter trying to steal second with Colon not looking and the inning is over. Not supposed to make the last out of an inning on the basepaths so much for the baseball smarts. That was a terrible decision. You have Fielder and Martinez due up. What is the point? Especially with a 3-0 lead. Strange play.
8:15PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 1 out – Reddick looks awful. Eight strikeouts on the 70th pitch for Scherzer.
8:16PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 2 out – Vogt with a fly out to right field. The A’s just don’t even look like they are getting remotely good wood on balls. Ignoring the fact he has eight strikeouts already, when the A’s make contact it goes nowhere too as the BABIP for the Scherzer is a low .143. The A’s just hit it weakly right to guys, nothing here has represented a snag.
8:18PM PDT – Bottom of 5th, 3 out – Barton K’s. Nine strikeouts. Yeesh. The regular box score line looks good enough, but let’s have some fun with small sample sizes and advanced stats. Scherzer’s FIP? 0.05, backed by 16.2 K/9 and a 57.1% ground ball rate. Sick. You can’t beat that. A’s need to figure him out fast.
8:22PM PDT – Top of 6th, 1 out – First pitch swinging sees Fielder fly out to Cespedes.
8:27PM PDT – Top of 6th, 1 out – Nine pitch at bat and Martinez puts it right back up the 50 yard line. The Tigers are nickel and diming things with eight hits. It’ll chase Colon eventually.
8:30PM PDT – Top of 6th, 1 out – The 3-0 pitch was just as far outside as the first three but Colon again battles back from 3-0 to make it 3-2 but Avila hits it up the middle past Lowrie who was covering second. Another hit for the Tigers. Nine on the night.
8:32PM PDT – Top of 6th, 2 out – Reddick has looked awful at the plate but wow did he look great there. Single for Infante, opposite field to Reddick who comes up throwing and gets Martinez with room to spare for Vogt to apply the tag. That was great, his arm is so valuable in right. Vogt might have wanted to play it a bit safer by blocking the plate more but no worries.
8:34PM PDT – Top of 6th, 3 out – Dirks with a sky high pop up to Donaldson to end the inning. Nice way to get out of the jam. Would’ve been a bigger mess had Martinez held. I wouldn’t test Reddick and Martinez isn’t much of a runner. That was clutch working out of trouble. Not sure if this is the end of the line for Colon as the cameras kept showing Dan Otero warming in the pen.
8:37PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 1 out – Great work there from Sogie. Can’t get to a guy so let’s swing and pop up to the shortstop on the first pitch. Don’t want Scherzer’s pitch count to get too high.
8:40PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 1 out – Coco draws a walk. Would be nice to see him get Scherzer off his game with some moving around on first. Third baserunner for Oakland. Second walk, both to Coco. Cespedes still with the lone hit, a triple way back in the second inning.
8:44PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 2 out – Bad day for Dirks in the field as that long run would have been a great play. He got the glove on it and dropped it. I think the dirt of the bullpen sort of psyched him out. Lowrie lives to see another pitch but then takes the next one also into left field with a laser that Dirks didn’t have to even move for.
8:49PM PDT – Bottom of 6th, 3 out – Tenth strikeout was a big one. Right down the middle and Donaldson could not connect stranding Coco at first. Normally, a guy on first with two outs wouldn’t feel like a rally but with the way Scherzer is pitching it sure did. 96 pitches for Scherzer as the Tigers approach that 104 pitch “average” they spoke of earlier. Perhaps more insight into what it means would be to see how Jim Leyland has treated Scherzer this season. He is averaging 16 pitches an inning so if he pitches another inning at that level he’d be at 112 pitches a number he has exceeded nine times this season. His high being a 123 pitch outing in Minnesota on September 25th.
8:52PM PDT – Top of 7th, 0 out – Otero is in for Colon. Colon’s line is six innings, ten hits that resulted in three earned runs as he walked no one and struck out just four. He really got burned with a .476 BABIP which supports the eyeball which was saying the Tigers kept finding holes. Otero on the year comes in having pitched 39 innings of 6.2 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 0.0 HR/9 baseball for a 1.38 ERA and 2.12 FIP.
8:54PM PDT – Top of 7th, 1 out – Nice pick by Donaldson and Iglesias is set down.
8:55PM PDT – Top of 7th, 2 out – Foul out for Jackson. And two quick outs in the top half of the seventh.
8:56PM PDT – Top of 7th, 3 out – 1-2-3 for Otero. Stretch time. A’s need to get some baserunners.
9:02PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 0 out – Finally a leadoff hit. Moss gets on board with an awkward chopper up the middle that Iglesias tried in vain to get to but ultimately couldn’t. 100 pitches for Scherzer as the A’s look to finally get on the board.
9:06PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 0 out – I had said, if the A’s could get a leadoff baserunner they can do something. They got it and Si Cespedes! Home run to deep left field. A no doubter off the bat. One of those classic “you could hear it” home runs. A’s get on the board. Oakland 3, Detroit 2. Detroit’s pen is no joke but boy has the tenor of this game changed.
9:09PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 1 out – Reddick flies out to left field. The way Iglesias and Dirks broke it looked like it might drop in but it hung up and Dirks took care of it. Al Alburquerque and Jose Alvarez are ready in the Tigers pen.
9:11PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 2 out – Another fly out to no-man’s land in left but Iglesias gets to it to get Vogt out. Sean Doolittle meanwhile warms in the A’s pen.
9:12PM PDT – Bottom of 7th, 3 out – Barton swings at an ugly pitch way inside to get Scherzer his eleventh K. Hat trick for Barton who joins Donaldson, Moss and Reddick with multiple strikeouts. But the A’s are on the board. I assume that is the end of the line for Scherzer. If it is a great outing for him: seven innings, two walks, eleven K’s, for 14.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9 a 2.57 ERA and 2.62 FIP and a .167 BABIP on 118 pitches.
9:17PM PDT – Top of 8th, 1 out – Ball bounces off of Donaldson’s glove but Cabrera was chugging slowly down the line and he gets him out regardless. That’s all for Otero who will be replaced by Doolittle. Otero goes an inning and a third with no straight or crooked numbers otherwise on his line. Of his 15 pitches, 11 crossed as strikes.
9:21PM PDT – Top of 8th, 2 out – Amazing how Fielder can on top of that pitch to drive it as he did. Fortunately though it looked scary off the bat for a split second it nestled safely into Reddick’s glove well short of the right-center field warning track.
9:24PM PDT – Top of 8th, 2 out – That was ugly. Sinking liner to left field. Seemed like it was going well and then Cespedes shanked it. Should’ve been an easy out but alas it was not. E7 and Martinez cruises into second. Hopefully that does not come back to haunt the A’s as the Tigers are 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position tonight.
9:26PM PDT – Top of 8th, 3 out – Doolittle takes care of business and gets Avila swinging to negate any ill effects of the Cespedes error. A’s look poised to face Drew Smyly in the bottom half. The left-handed Smyly has had a heck of a year having thrown 76 innings with 9.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 0.5 HR/9 for a 2.37 ERA and well in line with that 2.31 FIP, though as a reliever importantly, he had a strong 18:9 shutdown to meltdown ratio.
9:30PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 0 out – Smyly is indeed out. But there are several changes. The A’s have Alberto Callaspo pinch hitting for Sogard, and should the A’s score, a big deal is that Cabrera is out of the game having been replaced by Ramon Santiago at third.
9:31PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 1 out – A new pitcher and a new hitter but a familiar result as Callaspo is struck out looking. Joaquin Benoit is warming in the Detroit pen.
9:34PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 1 out – In the game MLB: The Show Matt Vasgersian says “I don’t know how you lay off that one but he did and it’s a ball”. I felt that way about two of those pitches. But Crisp let them go. They are called balls. Smyly walks Crisp who has drawn three walks. Tying run is on first.
9:37PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 2 out – Big strikeout as Lowrie goes down swinging. Only Vogt and Sogard have eluded a strikeout. Meanwhile Leyland is not leaving anything up to chance and is bringing in his closer for the four out save. Smyly leaves having thrown two-thirds of an inning walking one and striking out two on 15 pitches, with just over half (eight) for strikes. Benoit comes in, sporting a 2.01 ERA and 2.87 FIP earned in 66 appearances and 67 innings pitched of 9.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 baseball. He has an immaculate 30:4 shutdown to meltdown ratio which should give A’s fans some heart palpitations.
9:41PM PDT – Bottom of 8th, 3 out – Donaldson pops it up between the mound and plate and Fielder commensurate with his name fields it. Assuming the A’s can keep it a one run deficit, they have Moss, Cespedes and Reddick due up in the bottom of the ninth. Any of those three are more than capable of tying this game with one swing so the A’s look to be in solid shape to make a go of it. Moss has not fared well with a 0-for-6 with 3 K’s, but Cespedes (2-for-3 with a walk) and Reddick 1-for-4 with a HR and 3 K’s – only Athletic with a home run off Benoit) look a bit better.
9:46PM PDT – Top of 9th, 1 out – Elevate, elevate, elevate. Infante chases and Doolittle records his second strikeout.
9:47PM PDT – Top of 9th, 1 out – Dirks is out, Peralta is in. Peralta gets booed which is sort of funny given how much of the A’s success in the 1980′s was PED fueled. Defensively Dirks has had some tough chances in left and Peralta could be a factor in the bottom half as Cespedes’ two hits have both been to left field.
9:48PM PDT – Top of 9th, 2 out – Fly out to right field for Peralta.
9:50PM PDT – Top of 9th, 3 out – Doolittle looks electric. Five pitch K of Iglesias. Love the fourth pitch of the at bat. Just how far up does Doolittle think guys are going to keep chasing?
9:53PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 0 out – Peralta was just a pinch hitter as the new left-fielder is Don Kelly. Here we go! It’s go time!
9:57PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 1 out – A’s down to their final two outs. Moss strikes out. Avila can’t locate the ball which sort of ricochets back to Benoit so 1-3 on the strikeout. That is sort of strange. A’s have now struck out 14 times in this ballgame.
9:59PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 2 out – Fifteen strikeouts. My god. This is awful. I don’t buy into “productive outs” but you are doing next to nothing with a strikeout. Well, no, you are doing absolutely nothing. All comes down to Reddick who has not looked great offensively this year or in this game.
10:02PM PDT – Bottom of 9th, 3 out – Reddick strikes out. Sixteen strikeouts. 16 of 33 so 48.5% K% for the A’s as a team tonight. Not good. A’s find themselves down 1-0 and facing Justin Verlander tomorrow. Doesn’t get any easier folks, these Detroit starters are legit. All the A’s runs come on the Cespedes home run.
Here we go! The playoffs. Haven’t posted in a while. I don’t know what it is but September always seems to come along at the busiest time and next thing you know massive amounts of time elapse with no updates despite it being the most exciting part of the season. The A’s have run into the Tigers the last three times they’ve been in the playoffs losing the ALCS in 2006 and falling in the ALDS last year. This year the A’s won’t have to contend with Justin Verlander twice, and furthermore earlier this year they handily solved him (and in Detroit no less), but they do have to face 2013′s Tigers ace Max Scherzer. Scherzer, the American League’s best pitcher takes the hill for the Tigers tonight. Scherzer has been worth 6.4 WAR, sporting a 2.90 ERA and 2.74 FIP in his 214 1/3 innings of 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 work. For the less stats inclined his 2-13 record proves he is a “winner”. The A’s counter with their ace Bartolo Colon who finished second in the ERA race in the AL with a 2.65 ERA in 190 1/3 innings of 5.5 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 baseball. He sported an impressive 18-6 record so he too could be considered a “winner”. That said the concern about Colon has been his getting tired down the stretch as he is 40, but he has allayed that with a September that saw him throw 9.6 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a 1.16 ERA and 2.56 FIP in 31 innings. It ought to be an even matchup, but we will give a slight edge to Scherzer, just as the slight edge in this series likely goes to Detroit.
While one can argue every game is a must-win game, this game coming at the Coliseum, being able to get up 1-0, and to neutralize Scherzer really would be a great one to win. The A’s lineup that Bob Melvin will send out to try to get to Scherzer is as follows: Coco Crisp CF, Jed Lowrie SS, Josh Donaldson 3B, Brandon Moss DH, Yoenis Cespedes LF, Josh Reddick RF, Stephen Vogt C, Daric Barton 1B and Eric Sogard 2B. These A’s hit him a bit better than most, though those who have seen him most haven’t fared particularly well and in today’s lineup Moss has seen him the most with 15 plate appearances and a 3-for-13 with a HR to show for it.
The Tigers counter with: Austin Jackson CF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B, Andy Dirks LF, Jose Iglesias SS. Unfortunately, the Tigers have hit Colon well with a .313/.306/.296 clip this year. Hunter has seen him more than anyone else and has hit him alright (.241/.302/.448 in 63 plate appearances) though Cabrera (8-for-16), Avila (4-for 8 with 2 HRs), and Prince (4-for-7 with a HR) are of particular concern.
For September the A’s finished hot going 19-8, whereas Detroit limped to a 13-13 September ending their season just one game ahead of the surging Indians. That said with both these teams last playing on September 29th, momentum (if you believe in such a thing) surely has been delayed long enough to be a non-factor. This is a new season and the new season begins tonight.