DETROIT — Because of the extra wild-card game, the division-series format is different this season, and some say that favors the Tigers.
It used to be two games at the higher seed’s park, two at the lower seed’s park and then a fifth game, if necessary, back at the higher seed. This season, it’s two games at the lower seed’s park first, then three games at the higher seed’s park.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland likes the change, even though he doesn’t feel it necessarily favors his team.
“I really like the format myself because it eliminates that travel,” Leyland said. “You know, before last year, we (played) two in New York, come back here for two and have to jump back on the plane and go back to New York. That won’t happen this year.”
Catcher Gerald Laird said he was shocked when he heard what the format would be because he does feel the Tigers get the edge.
“If we can take care of business here and get a 2-0 lead and put the pressure on them to win three in a row at home,” Laird said. “Yeah, they just beat Texas three in a row, but it’s a grind.
“If you look at how many teams sweep teams throughout the year, it’s not very many times you do that, especially when you gotta go and beat a guy like (Justin) Verlander twice and the rotation that we have.”
The Oakland A’s finished with a 94-68 record in winning the AL West, six games better than the Tigers’ 88-74 record.
A’s manager Bob Melvin is not worrying about whether his team has a disadvantage starting on the road or not.
“What we’ve tried to do all year is just play for that particular day, whether you’re on the road, whether you’re at home,” Melvin said. “It doesn’t matter what the schedule is, you just deal with that day.”
Rotation set, not the roster
The Tigers will have Verlander in Game 1 and Doug Fister in Game 2.
Instead of Max Scherzer in Game 3, the first game in Oakland, Leyland is going with Anibal Sanchez. Scherzer will start Game 4.
“The reason we did that is because, obviously, Scherzer was coming off the little nagging thing (deltoid) there and then, on top of that, the ankle thing,” Leyland said. “It would only be one more day, but we figured we didn’t want Sanchez to sit too long.”
Although Leyland did say he was going to have 11 pitchers for the ALDS, he won’t announce the complete roster until Saturday.
“I have my roster in my mind, but there’s always — you never know about a last‑minute issue or something like that,” Leyland said. “So we’re just going to take the allotted time, and we’ll turn it in at 10:00 (Saturday) morning.”
Players considered to be on the bubble are: pitchers Rick Porcello, Darin Downs and Brayan Villarreal; and position players Don Kelly, Danny Worth and Brennan Boesch.
Starters discuss the opposition
While Verlander was a no-brainer for Game 1 for the Tigers, Melvin had to choose between right-hander Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47 ERA) and left-hander Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74).
Parker is 23 years old and Milone is 25.
“We were comfortable with either,” Melvin said. “Keep Parker on turn. He’s been pitching well here recently.
“Both of them we’ve given them a little bit of rest over the course of the season. But I think the way Jarrod’s been pitching here recently coupled with the fact that we’ll keep him on his regular routine was the final decision.”
Verlander, 29, who faced the A’s when they were in town a couple of weeks ago, was impressed with them.
“The last game I actually threw against them was one of the tougher games I threw all year,” Verlander said. “Every single one of their guys battled, throwing seven‑, eight‑, nine‑pitch at-bats.”
Although the A’s are known for striking out a lot, Laird agreed with Verlander that they don’t give at-bats away.
“The main thing is they make you work,” Laird said. “That’s one thing I was really impressed about, their two-strike approach and battling.”
The Tigers lineup has players that are well-known and more accomplished, of which Parker is well aware.
“They’re a dangerous lineup, obviously,” Parker said. “They’ve got a guy that won the Triple Crown. And they’ve got Austin Jackson leading off. And they’ve got a lot of weapons and great hitters and great players, and their staff is great as well.”