Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
The Tigers versus the A’s; this is a series that promises to be much more worthwhile for both teams than it ever should have been. A winning weekend for the Athletics would give Brandon Inge a sense of satisfaction, and with any luck put the team a little closer to Texas in the A.L. West. A winning weekend for the Tigers will hopefully give the big players – and the team as a whole – some much-needed momentum as interleague play and the heart of the summer schedule begins.
Thursday – 5/10/12
Max Scherzer vs. Bartolo Colon
Max Scherzer is looking to build on his last start, in which he seemed to finally get his pitching back on track in a big way. But, until we see a second start (i.e., tonight), no one can be sure whether or not the Jekyll-Hyde act is truly over, or if Max just managed to get his head on right for one start. He’ll have his work cut out for him, too. In a ballpark in Oakland that is very pitcher-friendly (the amount of foul territory in this park is astounding), and against a team that hasn’t been all that great since their A.L.C.S. appearance in 2006, Max has an ERA of 4.22 in 10 2/3 innings. Whether those innings have come in Detroit or Oakland, both stadiums play to a pitcher’s strengths. So seeing numbers like that for Scherzer doesn’t exactly bode well for his performance in Game 1.
Luckily, Colon isn’t exactly an all-star when pitching against Detroit. In the last ten seasons, he has a 5.32 ERA to go with a 7-8 record against the Tigers. Those are the kind of numbers you like to see, especially in a game where the pitcher is going to get a lot of help from his ballpark. The unfortunate part there, however, is that most of Colon’s games pitched involved very few of the players currently on the Tigers’ roster. With only 6-8 at-bats for four players, “good” numbers are very skewed, and are pretty meaningless. But, with any luck, this is just the kind of game that some of the big bats need to get woken up a little bit.
Friday – 5/11/12
Rick Porcello vs. Tommy Milone
After a bad start against Texas, and an embarrassing start against Seattle, Porcello seems to be back on the success track this season. He dominated both Kansas City and Chicago on the last homestand, and Oakland is a team that’s about on par with both those teams. So, as long as he keeps pitching like he has been, Rick shouldn’t have too many problems. The numbers, however, tend to suggest that Rick always finds problems when he gets to Oakland. With a 2-4 record, and an ERA of 4.39, Porcello finds run support seriously lacking when out in Cali.
There is no data on Milone against the Tigers yet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they handle him. In a pitcher-friendly park, Milone could be just green enough that the Detroit lineup can’t quite figure him out. Or the Tigers could start to wake up against Colon on Thursday, continue to rake on Friday, and send Milone home in tears. Odds are, it’ll be one or the other with no in-between. Given the way that they’ve been playing lately, my guess would be the first outcome.
Saturday – 5/12/12
Doug Fister vs. TBD
Doug came back from the disabled list with a bang, giving the team seven strong innings on Monday without a single earned run. Unfortunately for Doug, his team just can’t seem to hit the ball, and he was left with a No Decision, despite leaving the game with a two-run lead. I understood the desire to avoid any injury by limiting him in his first game back, but after only throwing 73 pitches through seven innings, he at least deserved one more inning. Especially given the way the bullpen has been utterly failing as of late. One more meltdown from a backend reliever, and the Tigers’ fanbase is going to call for blood. Again. Probably Raburn’s.
Fister saw the Athletics a lot when he pitched in Seattle, so he’s very familiar with their veteran players. That being said, those veterans have had next to no success against Doug, and he currently sits on a 5-3 record with an ERA just over two and a half. Don’t expect that trend to be broken anytime soon, either. I think the real treat will be to see how long Doug can go without giving up an earned run. He’s a little behind the rest of the league right now in starts, but odds are good that he’ll still put up better numbers than most pitchers that have the whole season to build their records.
Sunday – 5/13/12
Justin Verlander vs. Jarrod Parker
Verlander got the win in his last start Tuesday night, but it was not without its trouble. He gave up a few runs, but luckily received six of his own in support. Verlander, like everyone else on the team, doesn’t seem to be himself lately. He threw a lot of pitches in Seattle, gave up more runs than he’s used to, and couldn’t go as deep in the game as anyone (himself included) would have liked. There was also a lot of trouble with the umpiring in this game. Neither Verlander, nor Seattle starter Kevin Millwood could get anything called their way. The strike zone was like an oddly-shaped trapezoid the size of a baseball that changed with each inning. Verlander lost his cool and Leyland was tossed. Hopefully, Justin can right the ship in this game. While his record against Oakland isn’t great (5-5), Verlander does own a 2.68 ERA against the team. Which should help his stats by the end of the day. Then as long as he gets some run support, he should walk away from this game in great shape.
On the other side is Jarrod Parker, another rookie in the A’s. The Tigers have never seen Parker before, so they could run into the same issue as with Tommy Milone. The difference in this game is that Oakland has to face Verlander. So no matter how good Parker pitches, Verlander will keep the Tigers in this game and give the offense its chance to figure him out.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Game 4: Tigers
Final: Tigers win the series 4-0
It’s a long shot, I know. It requires me to put a lot of faith in this team to get everything going. But I want to believe that even if Scherzer isn’t all figured out, the Tigers can knock around Colon in Game 1. I’d also like to believe that the new and improved Rick Porcello of 2012 can take down a rookie like Milone. Then there are Games 3 and 4. It’s so nice to have those two gentlemen pitching back-to-back in the rotation again. If Smyly remains as good as advertised, and Porcello really has turned the corner in his career, then having Fister back will make this one of the most lethal rotations in baseball again. I won’t bet against Fister or Verlander any time soon. So there you have it, a 4-0 sweep on the west coast.
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