1-0, 2 games left to win in the series.
Prior to last night, JV was 0-2 with a 9 ERA in 3 previous game 1 playoff starts. After Coco Crisp lined the 4th pitch of the game into the RF bleachers, on a 1-2 count no less, it looked like more of the same. But it wasn’t.
Verlander then went into beast mode, and allowed only 2 hits and 6 base runners over 7 innings while striking out 11, including 5 of the last 6. The A’s only advanced to 2B once after the HR, and never had more than 1 runner on in an inning. The four walks were a little uncharacteristic, but note that they were all on full-counts.
I honestly believe that JV didn’t have his best stuff last night. He didn’t locate well, and obviously labored with the high PC. But he absolutely shut down a team that had won 6 in a row prior to last night, and seems to be the it pick in the playoffs.
The bullpen the came in and threw just as well, as Valverde had perhaps his best save of the year.
Cabrera and Fielder were surprisingly quiet, going 0-7 with a walk and GIDP (no RBI), but Berry’s speed created mayhem in the A’s infield, and Alex Avila hit his first HR of the season during a JV start.
All together it was a 3-1 win, and the perfect start to the ALDS.
Today’s A’s starter is lefty Tommy Milone. Milone is 13-10 on the year with a 3.74 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. His K/9 is only 6.49, which is a little below average, but he hardly walks anyone – 1.78 BB/9, which gives him an outstanding K/BB ratio of nearly 4:1. Milone’s fastball will top out at around 90 MPH, but he’s got a plus change and has 5 pitches that he throws with regularity (2 seamer, 4 seamer, change, cutter, curve).
Both of Milone’s starts against the Tigers during the regular season ended up in Oakland blowouts. Milone pitched well back on May 11th , allowing only 1 ER on 5 hits in 7 innings. The Tigers then got to him for 3 runs and 9 hits in only 4 2/3 a few weeks ago on September 20th, but those early runs didn’t hold up and the A’s ran away later in the game. In those two starts the Tigers managed 14 hits (.311 BAA) and 4 walks (.360 OBP), but only 3 XBH, all doubles. So look for extra bases, and not just singles, to be the difference today.
A few updates:
– Found this post on Fangraphs which says that the matchup is pretty close. Always interesting to see them labor through the numbers.
– Rod Allen thinks that today is a must-win for the A’s. With JV slated for game 5, it’s hard to argue, says ESPN’s David Schoenfield (and everyone else). Though Rod may want a redo on his game 2 “I see you,” since Avila is not starting today.
– The New York Times ran a nice piece on Cabrera on Friday, and reminded us that the last 3 Triple Crown winners all played in the World Series.
Today’s Morning (in Texas) Lineup:
1. Jackson, CF
2. Infante, 2B
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, DH
6. Peralta, SS
7. Dirks, LF
8. Garcia, RF
9. Laird, C