A’s rookie Parker to face star-laden Tigers

One team has the reigning MVP and another player who just won

the Triple Crown.

The Oakland Athletics will try to counter all that by sending –

who else? – a rookie to the mound.

”We’ve been the `David’ all year,” A’s right-hander Jarrod

Parker said. ”I think obviously it’s a role and an image that

we’ve kind of taken on and been able to embrace and it’s fun.”

Parker will start against Detroit ace Justin Verlander in Game 1

of the division series Saturday night. The AL Central-champion

Tigers are making their second straight playoff appearance, but

Oakland emerged as one of the game’s biggest surprises by winning

the AL West.

Now the A’s have to contend with Triple Crown winner Miguel

Cabrera – the Detroit third baseman who might win the American

League MVP after Verlander took the award last year.

”We know we’ve got a great ballclub. We know what we have in

the clubhouse,” Cabrera said. ”We know we’re going to face a very

hot team like Oakland. They play unbelievable baseball right

now.”

Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs to become the

first Triple Crown winner since 1967. But he wasn’t the only big

story in the closing days of the regular season. The A’s rallied to

win the AL West, edging Texas by one game when they beat the

Rangers on the final day.

Not bad for a team that had the lowest opening day payroll in

the majors. Oakland got 56 homers and 54 wins from a cast of

rookies that included Parker (13-8) and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Rookie left-hander Tommy Milone, who matched Parker with 13 wins,

is slated to start Game 2.

”Obviously with Verlander going Game 1, you’ve got to be on

your game,” Parker said. ”We have a lot of left-handed bats that

are hot right now, and I think that’s one thing we’ve got going for

us.”

Outfielder Josh Reddick, one of Oakland’s left-handed hitters,

hit 32 home runs this year.

The series will start with two games in Detroit, where the

weather can be a factor this time of year. In 2006, the Tigers

swept the A’s in the AL championship series, and there were snow

flurries at Comerica on a workout day between games. It rained a

bit Friday, but the forecast for Saturday looked clear.

That was good news for Verlander (17-8), the powerful

right-hander who had two playoff starts cut short by rain last

year.

”I saw a little bit of rain today, but I saw actually on my

Twitter of all places that it’s not – no rain in the forecast for

tomorrow,” Verlander said.

Verlander led the majors in strikeouts this year, and Max

Scherzer – Detroit’s Game 4 starter – finished second. That could

be an asset for the Tigers, especially since Oakland struck out

more than any other team. Detroit hasn’t been very good defensively

in 2012, but if the A’s aren’t making consistent contact, it might

not matter.

The Tigers are expected to start Doug Fister in Game 2, followed

by Anibal Sanchez. Scherzer, who was bothered by a right shoulder

issue down the stretch, threw four innings in the regular-season

finale Wednesday – after twisting his right ankle two nights

earlier in the celebration after Detroit clinched the division. The

Tigers are content to wait until Game 4 to start him.

”The Scherzer situation – coming off a little bit of the ankle

situation and the shoulder – we decided that would be the best way

to go,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ”It would also – just

by pitching him, Sanchez in front of Scherzer – would keep Sanchez

from keeping off too long.”

The A’s begin the postseason days after the death of reliever

Pat Neshek’s newborn son. Neshek is back with the team for this

series.

”As soon as I got out there and started playing catch, it takes

your mind off all the bad stuff,” Neshek told reporters. ”It’s a

good way of healing. . I don’t think we’ll ever get over it, but

this is a good way to put the pieces back together.”