Things have been falling into place for the Detroit Tigers the last two weeks, but the Oakland Athletics won’t be a pushover in the American League Division Series.
The Tigers became the first AL team to clinch their division, the Central, when they defeated the Kansas City Royals on Monday. Since then, they’ve basically had to wait until the rest of the league sorted itself out.
When the Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers, 12-5, Wednesday afternoon, it clinched the AL West for Oakland and eliminated the Rangers as a possible first-round matchup for the Tigers.
Later, the New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox, 14-2, securing the AL East and the league’s top seed, sending the Athletics packing for Detroit.
The Tigers went 4-3 against the Athletics this season, winning two of four in Oakland in May and taking two of three at Comerica Park last month.
However, no team has been hotter than the Athletics. They won eight of their last nine games and their final six to wrest the West from the Rangers, who led Oakland by as many as 13 games at one point.
“Remarkable, just remarkable,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of the surprising Athletics. “What they did today and what they’ve done all season.”
The Tigers will start Justin Verlander in Game 1, which will be played at Comerica Park at 6:07 p.m. Saturday. Verlander is 2-0 against the Athletics with a 0.69 ERA this season.
As for the rest of the rotation, it will likely be Doug Fister in Game 2 and Max Scherzer in Game 3, the first on the road. If Game 4 is necessary, Anibal Sanchez is the probable starter, and the Tigers would go back to Verlander if the series were to reach a Game 5.
There’s no word yet on Oakland’s young, talented rotation, which is led by Jarrod Parker. The 23-year-old rookie finished 13-8 with 140 strikeouts and a 3.47 ERA.
Playing the first two games at Comerica is definitely an advantage for the Tigers, who possess one of the best home records in the league at 50-31. And having the defending AL MVP and Cy Young winner, Verlander, going in the opener and ready for a potential Game 5 is also a bonus.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “They played very well against us during the season. They have a very powerful lineup that can certainly score some runs. They also have great starting pitching.
“We will have our work cut out for us.”
Perhaps. But the A’s have an identical 50-31 home record and have been a much better road team than the Tigers — 44-37 to 38-43. If the series were to go the distance, the final three games would be at The Coliseum.
Noticeably missing from the series will be Brandon Inge. The longtime Tigers third baseman was released in May and then joined the Athletics, driving in 52 runs in 74 games. But Inge underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last month.
In the other AL Division Series, the Yankees will face the winner of Friday’s wild-card game between the Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles.