For the third straight postseason series, the Oakland Athletics will take on the Detroit Tigers tonight in the American League Division Series.
The A’s were swept by the Tigers in 2006 AL Championship series and also fell to Detroit in the 2012 ALDS. Overall, the Tigers are one of only four teams that the A’s have a losing record against in the playoffs (0-4 vs. Braves, 4-9 vs. Yankees, 4-7 vs. Reds, 5-9 vs. Tigers).
Oakland, though, took three out of four games in Detroit in August of this season in dominant fashion, outscoring the Tigers 34-20. Both teams have great starting pitching and ability to score massive amounts of runs.
So what’s in store for fans as we gear up for Game One?
Line-ups: Neither manager has announced their complete line-up for Friday night, but Bob Melvin did say that Eric Sogard will be starting at second base.
Yoenis Cespedes, who’s been fighting a sore right shoulder, took batting practice on Friday and is likely to be in the starting lineup on Friday night. Whether he’ll be in left field or in the DH slot will depend on how he feels when he arrives at the ballpark.
Jim Leyland confirmed that outfielder Jhonny Peralta, who just finished serving a 50-game suspension for PED use, is on the postseason roster but will not be starting on Friday night. Instead, Andy Dirks will be starting for the Tigers.
Starting pitchers: Game One will see RHP Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA) against Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA). Both pitchers have come a long way since the 2012 postseason.
Colon missed the ALDS last year because he was still serving a 50-game suspension for PEDs. He says, through his translator Ariel Prieto, that after watching the games at home last year, he feels motivated and happy to be here.
Scherzer was solid in 2012 (16-7, 3.74 ERA in 187-2/3 innings), but wasn’t the No. 1 starter he is now. This season, he’s a favorite to win the AL Cy Young.
Scherzer spent time last offseason developing a curveball, which he says gives him three different pitches. Does he feel any added pressure starting Game One of the entire playoffs?
“No, not at all. I’m excited. This is what you work so hard for, this is what you do to be in this spot. The regular season is over, and it’s time to go out there and play baseball and try and play our best.”
Managing: Both Leyland and Melvin have the utmost respect for one another as two of the best managers in the game. Leyland said Melvin has used platooning to his advantage all season, always seeming to put forth a lineup that gets results:
“Nobody knows their players better than Bob Melvin, and I’m not here to comment on what they do strategically because that’s none of my business. … And you look back to the days of Lowenstein and Roenicke and where managers did things that they thought gave their team the best chance to win. I think that’s what Melvin does. He plays to their strength, and that’s it.”
Melvin expressed tremendous respect for what the Tigers have done and the success they’ve been having:
“There are two good teams. Both have the utmost respect for each other, certainly we do for them. Not only Jim Leyland but their whole team.”
Green-and-Gold Faithful: Opening this series in Oakland gives a boost to the A’s. Players and managers all told SFBay how loud Oakland fans would be Friday night at O.Co.
“I like bars with music, but this is a little bit loud. So it does get in the ear drums. Thank God I don’t hear that well. But it’s a great atmosphere, it really is, and there is no question about it. They’re really into it. They should be. They’re proud of their team.”
“We’re excited to be able to play on a Friday night in front of our fans with a few more people in the stands. And we know this is a pretty loud place.”
“This is one of the rowdiest baseball experiences I’ve ever been a part of. The fans here go absolutely nuts from the first pitch to the last, and that’s just something you’ve got to deal with. … If I’m not mistaken, they’re adding more people this year, so it’s just going to be an unbelievable baseball experience. Something I’ll never forget.”
It’s something that the fans will never forget, either. So whether you’re at the game or tuning in on TV, the “Let’s Go, Oakland!” chants will be out in full force.