Where: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
The Oakland Athletics won’t have to face Justin Verlander in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, but they’ll need to find some offense to avoid falling behind 0-2 against the Detroit Tigers. The Athletics struck out 14 times and managed just four hits Saturday in the opener of the best-of-five series.
Oakland had just one extra-base hit after Coco Crisp led off the game with a home run, and they lost 3-1 despite a solid outing from rookie Jarrod Parker. Detroit claimed its second victory in its past seven series openers by relying on its solid pitching, with Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde following Verlander with two scoreless innings.
The Athletics led the majors in strikeouts during the regular season, and their inability to put the ball in play quickly became an issue in Game 1. Oakland kept the game close by holding the heart of the Detroit order – Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young – hitless in nine at-bats.
The Tigers received a surprising boost from catcher Alex Avila, who homered in the fifth inning after going 3-for-41 (.073) with a homer and two RBI over 11 games in the postseason last year. The Athletics, who finished the regular season with six straight wins, still haven’t announced who will start Game 3. Left-hander Brett Anderson, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 19 due to an oblique injury, is expected to get the nod over A.J. Griffin.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Athletics LH Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45)
Milone went 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against the Tigers this season, giving up two runs (one unearned) over seven innings on May 11 before allowing three runs in 4 2/3 frames on Sept. 20. Milone, who owns a 4.83 ERA in 16 starts away from home this season, is set to become the fourth rookie pitcher to start a postseason game in Athletics history.
After dealing with injuries that derailed his first half, Fister finished the regular season on a hot streak with a 2.77 ERA over his final six starts. He’s 5-4 in his career against Oakland with a 2.45 ERA, losing his only start against Oakland this season when he gave up one run over six innings with eight strikeouts on May 12. Fister had a 4.76 ERA in three postseason games (two starts) covering 17 innings last season.
1. The Athletics tied a postseason record by starting four rookies in Game 1 – Jarrod Parker, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Derek Norris.
2. Detroit finished second in the AL with 8.29 strikeouts per nine innings during the regular season. Verlander and Max Scherzer became only the second duo in Tigers history to fan 200-or-more batters in a season.
3. The 14 strikeouts by the Athletics in Game 1 were the most by an Oakland team in the postseason since 1973.