Justin Verlander thinks the Tigers influenced the Athletics’ recent pitching acquisitions

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The Athletics made headlines yesterday when they acquired starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs. The A’s, who have won the AL West two seasons in a row, are leading the division again by 3.5 games and are 20 games over .500. There’s no doubt that GM Billy Beane is trying to put his team in a position to win a championship.

Tigers starter Justin Verlander thinks his team influenced the A’s to bolster their starting staff. The Tigers, of course, booted the A’s out of the ALDS in a nail-biting fifth game in each of the last two seasons. Verlander threw a complete game shutout against the A’s in Game Five of the 2012 ALDS and threw eight shutout innings in Game Five of last season’s ALDS.

Via MLB.com’s Jason Beck and Matt Slovin:

“I found it very interesting,” Verlander said Saturday. “Really, when I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind. If they want to win a World Series, they’re envisioning that they have to go through us, and even though it’s been two fantastic series, it’s been heartbreaking for them the last two years.”

[…]

“When you have a team like ours, somebody’s going to go out there and dominate,” Verlander said. “And it just happens the last couple years [against Oakland in Game 5], it’s been me. And I think they felt like they needed that person. Star power in the playoffs goes a long way. Power pitching in the playoffs goes a long way.”

Though the Athletics had done well in the starting pitching department prior to the trade — their 3.30 rotation ERA is fifth-best in baseball — rotation depth was one of their more obvious weaknesses. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir have been among the best one-two punches in baseball, but the A’s couldn’t feel comfortable relying on Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone in the post-season. Due to injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, Chavez is a full-time starter for the first time in his major league career. And despite good results, Milone has had trouble missing bats, something the A’s likely realize is not a good thing in post-season baseball.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.