ALDS Preview: Tigers vs. Athletics

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Tigers and Athletics have in store for us in the American League Division Series.

The Teams

Detroit Tigers (88-74) vs. Oakland Athletics (94-68)

The Matchups

Game 1 Saturday in Detroit: Jarrod Parker vs. Justin Verlander
Game 2 Sunday in Detroit: Tommy Milone vs. Doug Fister
Game 3 Tuesday in Oakland: Undecided (likely Brett Anderson) vs. Anibal Sanchez
Game 4 (if necessary) Wednesday in Oakland
Game 5 (if necessary) Thursday in Oakland

Analysis: As impressive as the A’s group of rookie starting pitchers have been, they just don’t have someone on the level of Justin Verlander, who is primed to start two games in the series if necessary. By the way, he allowed one run in 13 innings over two starts against the A’s this season. It’s a pretty interesting call to use Milone in Game 2 in Detroit, given that he had a 4.83 ERA on the road this season compared to a 2.74 ERA at home. It wouldn’t shock me if the Tigers head to Oakland up 2-0.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin hasn’t officially announced who he will use in Game 3, but it’s expected to be Brett Anderson, who hasn’t pitched since September 19 due to an oblique injury. That’s a big deal, as he had a 2.57 ERA and 25/7 K/BB ratio in 35 innings through his first six starts back from Tommy John surgery. Anibal Sanchez got off to a bit of a rough start after coming over from the Marlins, but he allowed three earned runs or less in seven out of his final eight starts during the regular season. Max Scherzer will start Game 4 for the Tigers if it gets that far. He probably would have pitched sooner if it wasn’t for recent shoulder and ankle injuries. A.J. Griffin figures to pitch Game 4 for the A’s.

The Storylines

  • The Tigers took the season series 4-3 while outscoring the Athletics 40-37.
  • The Tigers were tied with the Cardinals for the worst road record (38-43) among the playoff teams, so it’s important for them to take advantage of playing the first two games of the series at Comerica Park.
  • Strikeouts. We’re probably going to see a lot of them. The Athletics hit a ton of home runs (they were seventh in the majors with 195), but they also set an American League record by striking out 1,387 times. Meanwhile, Tigers pitchers were fifth in the majors this season with 1,318 strikeouts.
  • It’s a good thing Tigers’ pitchers are adept at getting strikeouts, because their defense is easily the worst of any team in the playoffs. They managed to win the American League Central in spite of it, but the margin for error is quite literally much smaller now.
  • Miguel Cabrera was awesome against pretty much everyone this season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that he put a hurting on the Athletics. The Triple Crown winner went 14-for-29 (.483) with three home runs and 14 RBI in seven games against A’s pitching. That’s nice and all, but the Tigers need contributions from other key bats like Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder so that Cabrera actually sees something to hit. The Tigers’ lineup doesn’t have a ton of depth.
  • Thanks to an unlikely cast, including Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss and Chris Carter, the A’s do have some pop. But they were also second-to-last in the American League in batting average and third from the bottom in on-base percentage. Meanwhile, Tigers pitchers gave up the third least home runs in the American League. What happens if he power isn’t there?
  • The Athletics don’t get on base a lot, but they steal bases when they do. They had 122 stolen bases during the regular season, the most among all playoff teams. Coco Crisp was fourth in the American League with 39 steals while Cespedes, Cliff Pennington and Reddick were all over double-digits. The Tigers were 29th in the majors this season with 59 steals.
  • The Tigers have the edge in the rotation, but they were 10th in the AL with a 3.79 bullpen ERA while the A’s were second at 2.94. The Tigers have the big names like Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel, but the under-the-radar trio of Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle were untouchable down the stretch for Oakland. Things could get dicey if Jim Leyland is forced to pull one of his starters early.

Prediction

The Athletics went 72-38 after June 2 and came back from 13 games down to win the American League West. With their rookie starting pitchers, a strong bullpen and an all-or-nothing approach at the plate, they might be the most interesting story in this entire playoffs. Assuming you don’t have a horse in this race, this scrappy and inexperienced bunch is going to be awful difficult to root against. Still, I must separate my head from my heart here. And in doing so, I think the Tigers starting pitching will prove to be too much.

TIGERS WIN THE SERIES 3-1

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 10, Rangers 5: This one was a barnburner, featuring eight home runs combined from both teams. Gleyber Torres hit two, both off of Bartolo Colon, who is more than twice his age. Torres is the second-youngest Yankee to have a multi-homer game. Aaron Judge, Neil Walker, and Aaron Hicks also contributed dingers for the Yankees. Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, and Ronald Guzman went deep for the Rangers. Masahiro Tanaka‘s ERA goes up to 4.95 after serving up four runs in five innings. Despite that, the Yankees improve to 31-13, good for the best record in baseball.

Phillies 3, Braves 0: Nick Pivetta was brilliant, spinning seven shutout frames with seven strikeouts, limiting the Braves to four hits and a walk. Seranthony Dominguez pitched an impressive eighth and Hector Neris closed it out 1-2-3 in the ninth. Catcher Jorge Alfaro was the star of this game, throwing out Johan Camargo attempting to steal and making an absolute laser throw to first base for the final out of the game. He should’ve also had a caught-stealing on Freddie Freeman, but shortstop Scott Kingery didn’t handle the ball well. The Phillies got homers from Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. Odubel Herrera, by the way, somehow got a hit on this pitch:

Mets 2, Marlins 0: Jason Vargas finally put together a good start for the Mets, tossing five scoreless frames. The Marlins only scraped out a hit and two walks while striking out seven times against him. The Mets, who started this month off with a six-game losing streak, have now won four in a row. The Marlins have lost four in a row; Monday’s was on the heels of Sunday’s absolute mess of a loss.

Nationals 10, Padres 2: The Nationals powered out four home runs, including Juan Soto’s first major league dinger. Mark Reynolds went deep twice and Bryce Harper went deep for his 14th homer of the year. Gio Gonzalez limited the Padres to a pair of runs on two hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 2: The Brewers were powered by the long ball on Monday. Travis Shaw drilled a two-run shot while Domingo Santana and Lorenzo Cain hit solo shots. All three homers came against Zack Greinke, who struck out nine over six innings otherwise. Chase Anderson outdueled him, limiting the D-Backs to a pair of runs on three hits and three walks with three strikeouts.

Orioles 3, White Sox 2: Manny Machado hit his 15th homer of the season, moving into a tie for the major league lead with 15. He’s tied with Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox. Mark Trumbo and Adam Jones also homered. Obviously, all of the Orioles’ homers were of the solo variety. Jose Abreu contributed a pair of doubles for the Pale Hose. The O’s are now 15-32; the White Sox are 13-31. Yuck.

Twins 4, Tigers 2: Jose Berrios may be back on track. He struck out 10 and held the Cardinals to one run over 7 1/3 innings his last time out. On Monday night against the Tigers, he limited the opposition to two runs on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in eight innings. Fernando Rodney worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

Cardinals 6, Royals 0: The Cardinals continue to get dominant starting pitching. After Jack Flaherty struck out 13 Phillies on Sunday, Miles Mikolas followed up by tossing a shutout against the Royals. Though he only struck out eight while holding the Royals to four hits and a walk. Tyler O'Neill homered in his third consecutive game and Matt Carpenter also went yard in a 3-for-4 night. The Royals are on pace for 114 losses.

Rockies 2, Dodgers 1: Carlos Gonzalez broke a 1-1 tie with an infield RBI single in the eighth inning. The other two runs scored on solo home runs from Max Muncy and Gerardo Para. Both times combined for only six hits and committed a combined four errors — three by the Dodgers. German Marquez tossed seven solid innings for the Rockies, striking out five while allowing the one run. Walker Buehler matched him with seven one-run innings, fanning six.