Justin Verlander’s Game 1 start against the A’s was easily the best of his postseason career. In allowing one run over seven innings, he picked up his fourth win in nine starts and lowered his October ERA from 5.57 to 4.96.
Now one wonders if he might need to be even better in Thursday’s decisive Game 5.
The Tigers simply aren’t doing much scoring. They’ve totaled 11 runs while splitting the first four games against the A’s. Three of those came on Oakland errors. In all, they’ve had eight extra-base hits, which is the same number the Giants had against the Reds on Wednesday alone.
Add to that the fact that the eighth and ninth inning guys have been a mess. Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde have combined to allow five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in the series. They also amassed a 5.59 ERA in 27 1/3 innings during September.
Ideally, Verlander will just go the full nine in outdueling rookie Jarrod Parker. He’s never done it in the postseason, but he had six complete games during the regular season this year.
Anything less and the Tigers are in big trouble. It seems nearly unfathomable that the A’s will rough up Verlander, but as we’ve seen the last two days, they don’t need to do much scoring to win.
Here we are, the final day of the regular season. And every game with playoff implications will start at the same time: 3:05 p.m. ET. What to watch …
American League Wild Card
NYY @ BAL
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
This is where the most intrigue lies heading into the day. We have the Yankees currently in position for hosting duties, but they’re only one game up on Houston. And then Houston is only one game up on Anaheim. Also at play here is that the Astros are just one game back of the Rangers in the American League West standings. If the Yankees, Astros, and Rangers all win on Sunday the current postseason map stays the same — the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday will be at Yankee Stadium with the Astros visiting. And the Angels would obviously be out. But if the Angels win and the Astros lose, we’ll have a play-in game Monday. And if the Yankees lose, the location of the Wild Card Game on Tuesday could change.
American League West
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
As we touched on above, the Astros are still in a position to force a tiebreaker for the division if the Angels beat the Rangers again in Arlington. It’ll be Garrett Richards against Cole Hamels in that one. Houston is throwing Lance McCullers vs. Robbie Ray in Arizona.
American League Best Record
KC @ MIN
TOR @ TB
If the AL Central-champion Royals (94-67) beat the Twins on Saturday behind deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, they’ll get the Wild Card Game winner in the ALDS and clinch homefield advantage throughout the postseason. But if they lose, the Blue Jays (93-68) could move into that top seed because they won their season series against Kansas City 4-3. Mark Buehrle is pitching for Toronto in what is supposed to be his final major league game.
National League Wild Card
CIN @ PIT
CHC @ MIL
Pittsburgh losing and Chicago winning on Saturday kept Wild Card Game hosting duties alive for Wrigley Field. If the Pirates fall again to the Reds and the Cubs win at Miller Park, the game Wild Card Game Wednesday will be in Chicago because the Cubs have the season-series edge (11-8) over the Bucs. Pittsburgh can wrap up clinching duties with a victory behind J.A. Happ.
Stay tuned. We’ll be covering all angles as the 2015 regular season comes to a close.
There was a pretty cool moment in Saturday’s game between the Reds and Pirates.
A.J. Burnett has announced that this will be his final season, so his start Saturday at PNC Park might have been the last time he ever pitches off a major league mound. (Pittsburgh has to make it through the Wild Card Game to get the 38-year-old right-hander another turn).
Aware of all this, Joey Votto made eye contact with Burnett just before his at-bat in the top of the first inning and gave a tip of the cap. Er, batting helmet …