The Detroit Tigers will go on the road Saturday and get the better of the Oakland A’s in game two of their American League Division Series clash.
There’s little doubt that the Tigers’ starter in this contest, Justin Verlander, has suffered through a down year in 2013. Still, his version of disappointment is what many people call success. Overall, the right-hander was 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA.
Recently, there are signs that the better version of Verlander is emerging. In September, he logged a 2.27 ERA over six starts and if you look at his last three appearances, he’s been particularly sharp. In those games he’s registered a 1.42 ERA. He’s a solid road pitcher (he tallied a 3.19 ERA in away games compared to a 3.73 ERA at home) and versus the A’s he has an excellent history. In 242 plate appearances, Oakland’s hitters have a combined .187 batting average against Verlander.
As for the A’s, they do have a lot of reason why they’d be appealing in this game. They played better than the Tigers down the stretch (Oakland went 19-8 in September compared to Detroit’s 13-13). They also have a better bullpen and are very good at home (52-29 at O.co Coliseum in 2013).
Despite those factors, my concern is with Oakland’s starting pitcher, Sonny Gray. The former first round pick has been one of my favorites this year as he put up a 5-3 record and a 2.67 ERA in his rookie campaign. But a close look at his ten Major League starts leads to concern. The vast amount of his success came against weak teams. In fact, four of his five victories were against highly subpar clubs (Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins twice and the Houston Astros).
On further inspection, he only started against one playoff club all season – the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Rays are good and he pitched well in that game, they do not boast as potent an offensive lineup as the A’s - Oakland ranked third in the AL in runs scored per game while Tampa Bay was below the league average at ninth.
If Gray can keep the A’s in this game through six innings then they’ll have a shot, but I expect the Tigers – with the AL’s second-best hitting line up – to jump on Gray early. Opt for Detroit to win and take them at 1.75.
Best Bet: Back the Detroit Tigers against the Oakland A's at 1.75
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