A’s can’t get big hit in Game 1 loss

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The A’s set out to make Justin Verlander work in Game 1 and were partly successful, boosting his pitch count early on. Verlander improved as the outing went on, but those early pitches resulted in his departure after seven, and once the A’s got into the bullpen, they came up just a couple of feet short of tying the game on a Brandon Moss fly to right in the eighth.

Unfortunately, that proved to be team’s only threat after the first few innings in the 3-1 loss to the Tigers. The A’s didn’t have a hit with a man on base during the game. They became just the 20th team in postseason history to strike out at least 14 times in a nine-inning game.

It feels like Oakland’s first defeat in a month or two. In reality, it had been nine days since they lost to the Rangers in the finale of a four-game series. They’d won six straight since to claim the AL West title.

The A’s still have home-field advantage in the ALDS, but they don’t want to go back to Oakland down 0-2. In Sunday’s Game 2, they’ll need to take a different tactic against Doug Fister, a strike-thrower who has handled them well in the past, going 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts. They’re going to need to be more aggressive and not let Fister get ahead with his fastball. Fister will throw his curve and changeup early in the count as well — he’s no easy assignment — but the A’s can’t miss the heater when it comes.

Personnel changes aren’t likely. While Fister has faced the A’s plenty, the only two current regulars he really has any track record against are Cliff Pennington (1-for-21) and Coco Crisp (6-for-12). It would make sense to sit Pennington and give Adam Rosales a try, though the A’s usually only do that against lefties. As hot as they’ve been, they’ll probably just stay the course.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.