Tigers’ fortunes hinge on Justin Verlander

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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.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.