It was a long road, and never easy, but the Tigers did it, and the playoffs are here! Let baseball’s second season begin!
Because of the peculiarities of this season’s scheduling, even though Detroit is the away team, they get the first two games of the best of five series at home, beginning with Justin Verlander on the mound tonight at 6:07, and Doug Fister tomorrow afternoon at 12:07, before heading out west to Oakland on Tuesday.
The Tigers won the regular season series with the A’s 4 games to 3, but the A’s come into the postseason as the hottest team in baseball, overcoming a 5-game deficit in 9 days to steal the AL West on the last game of the season from the Texas Rangers, who are now headed home to figure out what happened to their season.
First things first: the Tiger playoff roster is set, and in what may be a bit of a surprise, Brennan Boesch was left off, while Don Kelly and Danny Worth are in. In addition Brayan Villarreal was left out, which means Al Alburquerque will assume a big role. Rick Porcello will move to the bullpen for long relief.
So who are these Oakland A’s anyway? Nobody expected them to contend this season, not even Billy Beane, who thought he was assembling a rebuilding team who would contend in 3 years. Sports Illustrated tries to reverse-engineer the A’s to see what went so right, including an aggressive running game and an efficient mix of part-time players, who combined to give the A’s the most opposite-handed plate appearances in the AL, which makes their lineup hard to name, but also difficult to beat. (SI also predicts Oakland will take it in four).
The contrast between the two clubs is maybe nowhere more apparent than in the pitching match-ups. Oakland hands the ball to rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47), who leads a team of rookies that combined to account for 54 wins (and 56 home runs). Parker’s gem is his change-up: he has thrown over 600 of them this season, and has yet to have one leave the yard.
Parker will face reigning MVP/Cy Young Justin Verlander, who is looking to establish himself as a postseason pitcher in front of the home crowd. Verlander’s postseason totals hardly say “ace” (3-3, 5.57), but he has been bounced around a lot by rain delays.
Stat of the Day: Quintin Berry finished the season with 21 steals without being caught, an AL record. Teams haven’t tended to run against Oakland (144 attempts, vs 176 against Detroit). If Q-Berry gets on, will he get a green light?
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Miguel “Triple Crown” Cabrera, who is also 2-3 career against Parker.
Today’s Central Division Champions Lineup: