October 10, 2013
ALDS Game Five Preview: Tigers at Athletics
I still have Game Two as both the best of this series and the playoffs at large, but Game Four was thrilling throughout with potential Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam en route to earning the second Detroit win of the series. It’s worth noting that he did not start the game, but rather threw two electrifying innings of relief.
Projected Starting Lineups:
To that end, Austin Jackson has been getting crushed for his efforts in this series and it hasn’t been completely undeserved with 10 strikeouts in 16 plate appearances, but maybe his broken-bat, go-ahead single in the seventh inning on Tuesday was just what he needed to break out of an awful slump. Detroit thrives when Jackson is on base. They went 69-38 (.645) when he had at least a hit or a walk and then just 8-14 (.364) in the 22 games he was kept off the basepaths entirely.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Yoenis Cespedes, who had yet another two-hit game—his third in the series. He and teammate Coco Crisp have a combined 14 hits in the series (seven apiece) or nearly half the total of the entire Tigers team (30). Regular traffic on the bases is so important during the playoffs and these two along with Seth Smith (five hits of his own) have put the A’s on the board with regularity over these last two games. It is no coincidence that Crisp was 0-for-5 with three walks in the first two games, in which they managed just three runs, but then he was 7-for-9 in the next two games and they plated 12 runs.
Meanwhile, Jhonny Peralta has delivered exactly the offensive boost manager Jim Leyland was looking for when he inserted him into the lineup. Peralta is 3-for-7 in the last two games with a game-tying three-run homer in Game Four and five RBIs in all. He has more than made up for the run he allowed via a noodle-armed throw on a sacrifice fly that allowed Stephen Vogt to score back in Game Three.
With Colon being skipped over, he will be available in the bullpen for manager Bob Melvin, though he doesn’t quite fit into the relief mold that we saw from Scherzer on Tuesday as Colon is unlikely to come in and throw smoke. I’m not sure we will see him in a late-inning situation, but rather in an early-or-middle inning situation should Gray either struggle or simply pitch okay.
Matchups to Watch
Fielder has gone 3-for-7 in the last two games, but with no pop. He was signed to that hefty deal to hit homers. One in this game would erase all of the “struggle” talk from 2013. Donaldson, a legitimate MVP candidate, picked the worst time to have a four-game slump. While he does have a hit in each of his last three, he is also devoid of power and has just one walk compared to five strikeouts.