Here is a link to my Friday column about the A’s-Tigers match-up. The full text appears below.
OAKLAND — The Oakland A’s can beat the Detroit Tigers in the five-game League Division Series starting tonight at the Coliseum.
I am not saying the A’s will beat the Tigers. I am saying they have a hell of a shot, a better shot than last year when they almost won — they lost in five games. The A’s are a bargain-basement team — it’s like Billy Beane bought the players off racks in the basement of Macy’s. And yet the A’s had a better regular-season record than the high-priced — overpriced? — Tigers. The A’s can flat-out play.
Why do the A’s have a shot to win the series?
Try this on for size. In last year’s playoffs, they faced Detroit’s wonder pitcher Justin Verlander twice and lost to him twice, including the final game. This time around, they face Verlander once. Even with Verlander pitching twice, the A’s almost won the series. So the Verlander shortage is significant — plus, he’s not as overpowering as once upon a time.
You want more pro-A’s arguments? Happy to oblige.
In last year’s playoffs, the A’s did not have pitcher Bartolo Colon. There was something about serving a 50-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs. The big guy did his time and now he’s starting tonight’s game. And get this, he was very good this season. How good? He finished second in the American League in wins (18) and ERA (2.65). He is a definite Cy Young candidate.
The Tigers will start four right-handed pitchers against the A’s. That means the A’s will use their anti-righty batting order, their best batting order. Lefty Brandon Moss (30 dingers) bats cleanup against right-handers.
Here are some more A’s facts courtesy of, well, the A’s:
The A’s had the best record (190-134), along with Atlanta, the past two seasons. The Tigers didn’t.
Since May 17, the A’s had the best record in the majors. The Tigers didn’t.
The A’s played 10 consecutive months of winning ball dating from June 2012. It’s the longest active streak in the majors. The Tigers didn’t.
The A’s had a 4-3 record against the Tigers in the regular season. That means the Tigers didn’t have a winning record against the A’s.
I will add a few Tigers’ info-facts. Like Detroit’s bullpen is pretty much shot.
Like Miguel Cabrera, the best player in the known world, has a groin strain and other assorted stuff, and may have lost his batting power.
Here is Tigers manager Jim Leyland on his slugger: “He’s playable, he’s not 100 percent, obviously. The medical people feel that he’s not going to do anything to endanger his future and he wants to play. He’s handicapped a little bit, although I think he is better. Probably the last few days have helped him out a little bit. He’s still not going to be running at full speed and there probably would be a situation where the eighth inning and after, we would run for him, probably not before. So you’ve just got to be willing to live with the fact that he’s not going to run very well and that pretty much sums it up.”
Leyland on Cabrera’s hitting: “I think, for a while, it was tough for Miguel to use his lower half to hit, and most good hitters use the lower half and he uses it as good as anybody. I think it did hinder him for a while. But the last few games we played, that doesn’t seem to be there anymore and he seems to be fine from that aspect. So, I think he’s over that part of it now. He is getting better, but he’s nowhere near 100 percent.”
A lot will depend on Cabrera’s percentage.
And there’s this. It is a fact that the Tigers have more superstars than the A’s, who have none. Tigers’ superstars: Cabrera, Verlander, Prince Fielder. There may be more. I asked A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie about the superstar gap between the teams.
“Everybody’s so caught up on this,” he said with just a hint of irritation. “It’s great for those guys. They’re going to make a lot of money because of their abilities, but we have a good team. We have guys in this clubhouse who are going to make a lot of money, too. Maybe not as much as them, but that’s individual. That’s something you’ll look back on and admire yourself. You were a superstar one day. The teams are what really matter.”
Lowrie stressed the A’s are a balanced team, said that’s the big deal. “Everyone talks about the platoons we use here,” he said. “I don’t think it necessarily has to do with that. It has to do with the fact that we have guys who get on base. We have guys who have power. We have guys who give professional at-bats every single time. It’s more than just pure statistics. It’s guys knowing their roles and not doing more than what they’re capable of and not doing less.”
So when you think about this series, think the A’s are collectively more than their parts. And either the Tigers are or they are not.
Two more A’s fun facts word for word, courtesy of A’s PR:
“Five starting pitchers finished in double-digit victories this year — Colon 18, (A.J.) Griffin 14, (Jarrod) Parker 12, (Tommy) Milone 12 and (Dan) Straily 10 — tying Detroit for the most in the majors.”
“Launched the most home runs (88) and posted the highest slugging percentage (.451) in the majors since the All-Star break.”
One of the launchers is Coco Crisp, not someone you identify as inhabiting a launching pad. He hit 22 home runs this season, the most by a leadoff hitter. Here is Crisp on being a power guy:
“Luck of the draw for me. I have enough power to do it because I’ve done it. That’s not my game. It’s part of it, a little bit, but 20-plus home runs caught me off guard, especially because I have more home run than stolen bases (21).
“Next year, I might go back to normal. Hopefully, I steal more bases. You just never know. Once I got to 19, I was saying, ‘Oh, come on, just give me 20.’ I read somewhere me and (Ian) Kinsler had the shortest average distance for a home run for a guy with 10 (or more) so they could easily have been doubles, but they just slid over a little bit and gave me those extra two bases.”
Lots of strange things happen in baseball. A guy hits a ball that hits the chalk on the foul line and it’s a double and drives in the winning runs. The ball just as easily could have landed foul. Baseball, like life, involves luck. Luck could work against the A’s or for them.
But the A’s are qualified to beat the Tigers, have one hell of a shot.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.