October is here. After three nights of win-or-go-home situations, divisional series play begins.
Last year’s runner up gets going Friday night as the Detroit Tigers visit the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the ALDS on TBS at 9:37 p.m.
In a rematch of last year’s ALDS, a lot is the same, but a lot is also different. Oakland comes in 31 games above .500 at home, while Detroit is just three games above .500 on the road.
Friday night will pit Detroit’s Cy Young candidate and the league’s only 20-game winner Max Scherzer against the league’s 6th-best ERA man Bartolo Colon.
Scherzer was 1-0 in last year’s series while Colon was 0-2. This season saw two games in which Scherzer and Colon faced each other, each picking up no decisions in both games.
Scherzer was dominant in game one giving up one earned run on five hits, with 11 strikeouts. Oakland won 4-3 in 12 innings. Game two was a walk-off come-from-behind win for Detroit. Scherzer gave up six ER while Colon gave up just one.
While Detroit didn’t necessarily limp into the postseason, they’re not in the greatest shape. Miguel Cabrera has been ailing throughout the second half of the season and manager Jim Leyland says the 3-time reigning AL batting champion “is not 100 percent” and is “playing in a lot of pain,” per reports from ESPN.
This could be scary for the Tigers. Cabrera has been pretty much the heart of the team over the last few years, but that’s where Prince Fielder comes in. He is 5-for-6 with three RBI against Colon this year. Overall in games Colon pitched Fielder is 7-for-9 with four RBI and a home run.
Overall against the A’s this year, Fielder is 12-for-24 with eight RBI and three home runs. Of all Tigers hitters, those are the best numbers against the A’s this year.
While Cabrera is still capable of producing while injured – he showed that by hitting a ninth inning, game tying home run off Mariano Rivera with a hampered groin and abdomen after fouling two balls off his shins – Fielder may have to carry more of a load this postseason, especially against Colon.
Bob Melvin has put together a pretty solid squad in Oakland this year, and Tigers fans have good cause to be a little cautious entering Friday night. While they might not have many “big names,” and they do only have two players hitting (just barely) above .300, this team can hit.
Guys like Josh Donaldson – .301 BA, 93 RBU, .384 OBP – and Brandon Moss – 30 HR and 87 RBI – are known for wreaking havoc in clutch situations, as is the whole team. They have nine walk-off wins. Not only do they have one of the league’s best home records, they have 27 wins at home won by two runs or less. That makes O.co Coliseum a tough place to play, not to mention its sewage problem (http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/21/sewage-problems-at-o-co-coliseum-no-problem-for-the-athletics-as-they-cut-their-magic-number-to-one/).
The Tigers enter Friday’s postseason opener in search of their fifth World Series title and first since 1984, while the A’s are in search of their 10th and first since 1989.
Friday will be key, as 25 of 36 teams have won divisional series after winning Game 1 dating back to 2004. In series overall, teams have more than 75 percent of series after winning game one dating back to ’04.
But that’s the beauty of October baseball – the norm is meant to be broken. But while results can vary, the winner of Friday’s game has that much better of a chance to win the series, based on history.
It will be interesting to see how the Tigers respond to adversity, as they come in with an injured star, losing five of their last seven games. But when it comes down to it, look for Fielder and Scherzer to be the ones to lift the team to a victory and take a 1-0 series win.