Game 2013. Playoffs 4: A’s at Tigers

Well, here we are facing elimination, which is never a pleasant thing. The series so far has been a bit dispiriting, which is why I am muttering to myself and throwing the F-bomb around to keep myself pumped up while I type this. And what the $%*! are you looking at?

This isn’t supposed to be how it goes: the Tigers were built on starting pitching and heavy lumber, sacrificing things like base running, defense, and the bullpen to get there. And it was a winning formula, mostly: the Tigers were 2nd in the league to Boston in runs per game at 4.91, and 2nd in team OPS at .780, with a healthy .434 slugging %. But that has all but disappeared. Since September 1, the Tigers have hit only 16 home runs, good for 14th in the AL (ahead of just Houston). Their slugging % has dropped to .387.  Could Cabrera really mean that much to the offense? He could.

That leaves a team built on starting pitching, and, well, crossing your fingers. And until yesterday, the starting pitching did its part, holding Oakland to 2 runs over the first 2 games, good enough for a split, even with the lack of offense. The pitching finally cracked last night, and Leyland was slow to react, and the game spun out of control. It is easy to understand Leyland’s hesitance to make a change. For the whole season and the first two games of the postseason, Leyland counted on his starters, and they came through.

*****

Perhaps tonight will be different. The Tigers, when they do lose, seem to go rather quietly. It was not so last night. Thanks to Crazy Closer the Tigers lost angry last night. Perhaps that will wake up the bats.

Even though the benches emptied last night, other than the head-to-head between Victor and Balfour it was all rather civil (no pushing or shoving, everyone seemed rather calm about it). But it is worth keeping in mind who is pitching tonight: Doug “16 HBP” Fister. What are the odds that if Fister plunks someone tonight that the A’s will not assume it is a “retaliation?” Stay tuned.

Just in case there is some, um, extracurricular activity…is it too late to sign and activate Kyle Farnsworth?

*****

Back to Mr. Cabrera. Tiger fans have been privileged to watch possibly the best hitter in baseball going all season long. Well, almost all season long. That guy is gone, and hopefully will return for next season. What we have now is a bit of 2006 Sean Casey: a dependable singles hitter who runs at a fast walk.

In a slightly cruel irony, two very nieces pieces about just how special Miguel Cabrera is came out recently, and are worth reading.  Check out is Miguel Cabrera the Hero of the Post-Steroid Era in the New York Times Magazine, which, among other things, looks at his encyclopedic memory, his vicious grin, and the possibility that he intentionally looks bad on certain pitches.

The Wall Street Journal gets into the mechanics of his swing in Miguel Cabrera: The Art of Hitting, which is full of fascinating information not just about Cabrera, but the science of hitting in general.

*****

I have been a bit hard on Austin Jackson in my comments this week, but that is because he is so important to the team–well, he in his role as leadoff hitter is. With a power-hampered Cabrera hitting 3rd, it is important to get some guys in scoring position ahead of him (when they did, he came through with an RBI single). Jackson has been striking out a rate that would impress Brandon Inge (6 in the last 2 games). As I have said, I think people make too much of strikeouts. But there are strikeouts and there are strikeouts: the A’s seem to strike out because they are waiting for their pitch (I’ve seen a few take 2 consecutive curve ball strikes while waiting for a fastball), and from swinging for the fences. Austin just looks like he is blindly hacking sometimes.

At any rate, Jackson might benefit from being moved out of the leadoff role, which doesn’t seem to really suit him. (A lot is made of his speed, but it doesn’t translate to either getting on base or stealing bases. The Tigers are last in all of baseball in stolen bases from the leadoff hitter). I think a worthwhile offseason project will be to find a real leadoff hitter. The Tigers could do worse than work with Jose Iglesias in this capacity (he will have to be more selective in what he swings at–laying off the high fastball would do him wonders).

*****

Leyland pooh-poohed the idea of Kershawing Scherzer ahead in the rotation for a start tonight, which should be no surprise, knowing Leyland. Surprise! Leyland would consider using Max in relief tonight! (In which case Verlander would start in Oakland).

*****

OK, let’s end on a positive note. With our 3-man Game Post rotation, we’ve got our Game 1 starter (and winner of the regular season Game Post League) back on the mound here, and I managed to eke out a 3-2 win in my first start. I’ve got this one.

Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Everyone. Detroit needs a full team contribution today.

Today’s Who You Looking At? Lineup:

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Hunter, RF
  3. Cabrera, 3B
  4. Fielder, 1B
  5. Martinez, DH
  6. Peralta, LF
  7. Avila, C
  8. Infante, 2B
  9. Iglesias, SS

Whatever happened to Brayan Pena? Just wondering. Don’t look up the A’s numbers against Doug Fister, you really don’t want to know. No, really, you don’t. Don’t make me do this. OK, you asked for it:

  • Coco Crisp (7-for-19)
  • Josh Donaldson (3-for-4)
  • Brandon Moss (3-for-5)
  • Yoenis Cespedes (3-for-6)

Are we sure we don’t want to reconsider that bumping Scherzer up idea?