Once down two-games-to-one in their American League Division Series, the Detroit Tigers will complete the comeback, winning a deciding game five against the A’s in Oakland on Thursday.
To me the deciding factor will be Justin Verlander. He didn’t look good on the biggest stage – the World Series last year – but he’s shown great poise in earlier playoff series – especially against the A’s. In game two of this series, Verlander went seven scoreless innings while striking out 11 and allowing just four hits.
Last year against the A’s in game five of this same series, Verlander threw a complete game shutout, striking out 11 en route to the victory. Being at O.Co Coliseum will not be a concern for Verlander. He has thrived in his career at the spacious ballpark. He owns a strong career 2.38 ERA there and a dominating strikeout-to-walk ratio of 63-24.
But beyond Verlander, the Tigers’ advantage falls in the club’s renewed lineup. Detroit only mustered six runs through this series’ first three games, but exploded for eight in game four. The return of Jhonny Peralata to the Tigers lineup certainly helped (he’d been shelved for the last 50 games of the season with a suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Quite simply, the Tigers swung the bats with more swagger in this series’ most recent game.
The A’s wisely have chosen to start Sonny Gray. (The other option was Bartolo Colon, who Tigers’ hitters have owned to the tune of a .330 batting average in 223 career plate appearances.) In contrast, Gray has only faced Tigers’ batters once – and it was an epic performance against Verlander in game two of this series.
In that contest, he twirled eight scoreless innings, conceding just four hits and two walks, while striking out nine. But as has been the case elsewhere in this post-season, I fear that a veteran Detroit lineup will make enough adjustments to succeed after a full game against Gray under their collective belt.
Gray typically has a conventional approach to his game plan – get ahead with the fastball and then use the curveball as his out pitch (if he remains behind, he tends to stick with the fastball). A more veteran pitcher might change up the approach, but with Gray’s relative youth, I suspect he’ll stick with what he’s comfortable with. Tigers’ hitters will probably recognize this and be more prepared for a better performance.
Take the Tigers, who are on at 1.87 to win.
Back the Detroit Tigers to beat the Oakland A’s at 1.87
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