The Tigers will live to fight another day when they level their American League Division Series at two games apiece with a victory against the Oakland A’s in Detroit on Tuesday.
This contest features two pitchers who have been sitting around for quite a while waiting for this opportunity. Detroit’s Doug Fister last started a game on September 24. Getting that sort of extended rest has been really meaningful for Fister this season.
Overall, he was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA, but in games in which he has seven days or more of break since his previous start, Fister was 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA. The big red flag with Fister is the result of his only outing against Oakland this year. On August 28, the A’s crushed him. He lasted just five innings and gave up 13 hits and seven runs.
Still, I’d suggest that game is an anomaly. In the 115 plate appearances before that contest, Oakland hitters had just an okay .271 batting average and a less-than-stellar .322 on base percentage. A rested Fister may very well catch the Oakland hitters off guard. Keep in mind, in his terrible outing against the A’s he was working on four days rest – a situation in which Fister struggled somewhat this year (he had a 4.19 ERA in those instances).
His pitching opponent Dan Straily had a good-but-not-great year, posting a 10-8 record and a 3.96 ERA. As is the case with Fister, Straily hasn’t pitched in a while (he last started a game on September 25).
Interestingly, when given a lot of rest, Straily isn’t all that much better than when he throws on a regular routine. You’d expect a strong uptick with a long break, but Staily’s improvement wasn’t incredibly noticeable. He was 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in those situations during the 2013 campaign. Straily did yield just one run in six innings in his only start against the Tigers this year – and that outing was on the road.
Still, he allowed eight hits in the contest, which suggests that while he worked around base runners, Straily wasn’t exactly fooling the Tigers’ hitters. In fact, lifetime, Detroit batters own a .387 batting average versus Straily in 33 plate appearances. Moreover, despite his one good performance against the Tigers, he generally doesn’t throw particularly well in away games (4.11 ERA versus a 3.76 ERA at home).
Best bet: Take Detroit, which is on at 1.65, to win and send this series to a deciding game five.