The Detroit Tigers rose from the ashes on Tuesday night to come back and tie the ALDS series 2-2 with the Oakland A’s. Game 5 will be played on Thursday night at the O.co Coliseum and first pitch is set for 8:07 eastern.
For the Tigers, it will once again be Justin Verlander taking the mound in Oakland for the clincher. He did that last year if you recall, and all he did was shut the A’s out and push the Tigers to the ALCS.
For the A’s, it will be …..? Nobody knows as of this writing. Manager Bob Melvin will have both staff ‘ace’ Bartolo Colon and the hottest name in baseball, Sonny Gray, at his disposal, both on full rest.
Colon gave up 3 runs in 6 innings in Game 1 and wound up the loser. He allowed 10 hits and no walks. He struck out 4. Meanwhile, the rookie Gray went 8 shutout innings in Game 2 to help nudge the A’s to a 1-0 win and a 1-1 series tie. He struck out 9 while giving up 4 hits and 2 walks.
My suspicion here is that Melvin goes with Colon initially and has Gray hot and ready at the first crack in the armor shown by big Bartolo. Either way, at least on paper, runs should be at a premium once again on Thursday night. [Update: Melvin has officially decided to ride the hot hand in Sonny Gray as the Game 5 starter]
With the A’s starting pitching still in limbo, here are some key storylines for the Tigers heading into Thursday night:
Jim Leyland was hesitant to start Jhonny Peralta in left field in the O.co, instead giving Andy Dirks Game 1 and Don Kelly Game 2. Three hits including a double, a 3-run homer, and 5 RBI’s later for the offensively challenged Tigers and Peralta is a shoe-in to stay in the lineup.
What a tremendous story the last two games have been for Peralta. Erasing the bad vibes that clouded his name after a 50-game suspension for PED use, Peralta has justified the Tigers’ faith in him as well as anyone could have hoped. It’s fascinating what a few clutch hits will do for a reputation.
Much of the credit must go to Peralta for being a stand-up guy throughout his suspension as well as upon his return. Being the class act that he is has made the transition back to the team much easier on all parties involved.
JV is the A’s daddy
Can Justin Verlander continue to mystify Oakland’s offense? In Game 2, JV turned in arguably his best start of the season. He went 7 scoreless with 11 K’s while only surrendering 4 hits and a walk. His curveball was the best it had been all season, often times leaving A’s hitters with the bat on their shoulder headed back to the dugout.
It’s not just about his performance in Game 2 though. Verlander beat the A’s twice last postseason, including the decisive Game 5 in Oakland. In those two starts he went 16 innings combined allowing just 1 run on 7 hits and 5 walks. He struck out 11 batters in each start, just like he did on Saturday night. You know Oakland wants to give Verlander a heavy dose of payback. You also know that Verlander wants to reassert himself as one of the game’s greats after a difficult season.
Stop pitching to Coco!!
It seems like there are guys littered throughout the league who just own Tigers pitching. Coco Crisp is one of them. Last night in the 7th inning of a tied game, Max Scherzer gave up a leadoff single to Stephen Vogt. He was sacrificed to 2nd by Eric Sogard, bringing up the steaming hot Crisp. I immediately took to my phone and texted my buddy that they needed to walk him. They didn’t. Crisp singled, driving in Vogt and giving Oakland a temporary 4-3 lead. Crisp would single again in the 9th for his 4th hit of the game.
Coco has come to the plate 17 times in the series thus far. He has reached base safely 10 times on 7 hits and 3 walks. On the bright side, in Game 2 against Verlander, Crisp was 0 for 4 with a strikeout. Verlander won’t back down to Crisp but if there is an open base and the game hangs in the balance, as unconventional as it is to intentionally walk a leadoff hitter, the Tigers should do it and take their chances with one of Oakland’s more free-swinging hitters. If the A’s are going to beat the Tigers, let it be with someone other than Coco.
No more walking dead
As last night’s game got rolling and the innings began to fly by, it appeared to me as if the Tigers had the same body language that they did during the World Series against the Giants. They were dead men walking.
A bloop single by Prince Fielder, another hit by Victor Martinez, and then a 3-run homer by Peralta got the heart pumping again. And when Scherzer came off the mound dripping with adrenaline after his escape act in the 8th inning, he ignited his team, who went on to score 3 add-on runs in the bottom of the 8th.
Despite the business-like approach that this team so often plays with it is apparent that some fiery energy is still required if they want to reach their final destination. Last night that was supplied at the most unexpected of times and the team responded accordingly. More will be needed in a hostile environment against Colon and Gray. I nominate Max for the pre-game speech on Thursday night.
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