AL Playoff Preview: Oakland A`s At Detroit Tigers
Playoff Preview: Oakland v. A`s
Background: These two dynamic teams aren`t strangers to the post-season, or to each other. Rewind back to last year where we found both teams in the exact same position. Oakland held home field advantage while Detroit came in as the Central Division champions. The teams were, and currently are, constructed in opposite designs. The Tigers are built on the mo-town mustle. The home grown boys of Verlander, Porcello, Rondon, Avila, Dirks and Smyly have given the Tigers a great foundation, but it`s not the farm boys that make this team elite. In 2007 a much skinnier Miguel Cabrera made his way from the Marlins, Austin Jackson followed him in 2009 from the Bronx boys and Sherzer was added the same year from the Diamondbacks. The last three years have seen Fister (Mariners), Infante (Marlins), Sanchez (Marlins), Veras (Astros), and Iglesias (Red Sox) thrown into the equation from other teams. Fielder, Alvarez, Hunter, and Pena were added from free agency all in 2012. There was one vision after the 2012 offseason, win the series. This team is not designed for October, it is designed for a series win. Last year saw the Tiger`s phenomenal season end suddenly when the Giants came into town and complete the four game sweep. This year the eye of the tiger is on one thing. A ring.
Enter the Green and Gold from Oakland. The Swingin` A`s. Billy Bean has done so well that Brad Pitt decided that he wanted to be him for a year. The BeanBall strategy has evolved over the last few years. The mad scientist Bob Melvin was acquired to manage the team after Arizona let him walk. The A`s made a splash when the surprisingly and suddenly swept the Cuban Missile defect Cespedes up in a very competitive bidding war with some big dog teams. Gold Glove winner Josh Reddick was added in FA, Coco Crisp has been monumental in center while the rag tag team of misfits circles the diamond. The surprising Donaldson keeps the hot corner on ice, the injury prone Lowrie has kept himself outta the ice, and a couple of committees make up the 2nd base and 1st base platoons. Half of these kids are getting paid the league minimum or barely above it, and those who aren`t are actually the team`s biggest underperformers. The A`s have a two year window to get the most out of this club before you see Billy and Bob dismantle it so that Wolfe can save his pennies.
Scherzer vs. Colon @ Oakland. Colon is back in full form and if it wasn`t for a groin injury in August, Bartolo would have been the runaway pick for the AL Cy Young. He is back to good form lately and both pitchers are having career years. Expect this game to go quickly in this pitcher friendly ballpark. The keys in this game are home field advantage (which does exist in baseball), and what the weeklong break has done for the cold bats of the Tigers and the hot bats of the A`s. If October is a continuation of September look for Oakland to drive up the ball count, get to the Tigers suspect bullpen and finish this game off in close fashion.
Verlander vs. Gray @Oakland. You read that right, the rookie Grey gets the nod for game two. Verlander`s experience will definitely come into play and I expect the former CY Young to go deep in this ballgame. Gray has been phenomenal at times this season, but this is a different game.
Parker vs. Sanchez @ Detroit. The ERA champion will play the former Oakland ace as the series switches to Detroit. Parker has pitched almost perfectly since his rough start and I expect this game to be a rubber match. Depending on how both bullpens have been used, I expect this game to come down to the last inning and the Tigers to pull it out.
Straily vs. Fister @ Detroit. Home run Griffen is out due to elbow tendinitis and strikeout Straily gets the start. This game will see more runs than the last and I expect the A`s to finally get into the shaky bullpen for a few innings and wreak havoc. A`s find another game four miracle and that means we are going five.
Scherzer vs Colon @ Oakland. Well look what we have here, another October Classic. Leyland should have used Verlander and his experience in a game five in Oakland. The crowd is going to be absurdly loud, Colon is going to pitch his heart out and the Athletics will use the energy and momentum to wrapt this series up. Balfour rage will be the last three outs and the A`s finally break the Division Series barrier.
This will be another October classic. A simple error or hit may decide the outcome of a deadlock series. I expect the youthful easy going A`s to use last years’ experience to their advantage and to come away with the series win. Either way, it`s going to be close.