Tigers-Athletics in ALDS again
The Tigers (93-69) will face a fairly familiar foe in the A's (96-66) when the American League Division Series begins Friday.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the series will start in Oakland this time.
Last year, due to a scheduling oddity caused by holding additional wild-card games for the first time, the ALDS was a 2-3 affair, with two games in the lower seed's park and three in the higher seed's park.
So the A's had to come to Detroit to start last year, even though they had the better record.
This year, it's a 2-2-1 series, beginning in Oakland.
"It makes for good fun,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It was a good matchup last year, we’ve had some spirited games with them this year. So it should be an exciting series, two pretty well-matched teams."
One of the major differences in this year's Athletics is veteran starter Bartolo Colon.
Colon did not pitch for the A's in the ALDS last season as he was serving a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy for using testosterone.
The A's brought Colon back this season and he came in second to the Tigers' Anibal Sanchez in the AL ERA race. Colon, 40, finished 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA. Sanchez finished with a 2.57 ERA.
Colon will likely start Game 1 for the A's.
Last season rookies Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone started the first two games for the A's.
Parker, who was 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA this season, could start Game 2.
Sonny Gray is this year's rookie phenom for the A's. The 23-year-old started Sunday, striking out eight in five scoreless innings.
Gray had a 2.67 ERA in 13 appearances, 11 starts, and may start Game 3 Oct. 7, depending on what manager Bob Melvin and his coaches decide.
A.J. Griffin, who started the fourth game for the A's last year, might start the fourth game again this season, if the series goes that far. Griffin has been nursing a sore ankle for about a month.
Griffin, 25, was 14-10 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.13 WHIP this season.
The A's are still led by Melvin, the reigning AL Manager of the Year.
The lineup has changed somewhat.
Coco Crisp is still there playing center field and leading off, but he has found his power stroke, belting a career-high 22 home runs.
Josh Donaldson remains the third baseman but is a much improved player. Donaldson hit .301 with 24 home runs and 93 RBIs.
Last year's second baseman, Cliff Pennington, departed in the offseason and has been replaced by Eric Sogard.
Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith remain, but shortstop Stephen Drew went to Boston and the A's acquired former Red Sox Jed Lowrie.
Lowrie batted .290 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs.
Cespedes has been battling shoulder tendinitis but expects to be healthy by Friday.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the A's are likely to have three catchers on their postseason roster -- Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki and Stephen Vogt.
Suzuki returned to the A's this season after spending the end of last season with Washington and often comes in later in games to handle some of the A's relievers.
As for the bullpen, the A's have many of the same relievers that they had last year.
Grant Balfour is the closer and had 38 saves this season.
Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle pitched in 71 and 70 games, respectively. Jerry Blevins appeared in 67 games.
Brett Anderson, who pitched a 2-0 gem in Game 3 last year, has been in the bullpen of late after recovering from an ankle injury.
The Tigers won't take the A's for granted, not after narrowly averting a four-game home sweep by the A's in late August.
Torii Hunter's walk-off home run off Balfour in the final game salvaged the only win in that series.
"They beat us up pretty good the last time they played us at our place," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters in Miami. "We’re going to have to do a better job of pitching than we did the last time at Comerica Park.
"They hit a lot of good pitches and they hit a lot of bad pitches. We’ll just have to do a little better job of pitching."
LAST YEAR'S ALDS
Game 1: Justin Verlander out-dueled Parker, allowing just one run in a 3-1 victory, striking out 11.
Game 2: Don Kelly hit the walk-off sacrifice fly to score Omar Infante for a 5-4 victory.
Game 3: Anderson did not allow a run and Anibal Sanchez gave up only 2 in the A's 2-0 win. Smith had a home run.
Game 4: Jose Valverde blew a 3-1 lead. Smith had a two-run double that tied it and scored the winning run on Crisp's single in the 4-3 victory.
Game 5: Verlander couldn't have been more dominant, throwing a complete-game shutout in the 6-0, series-clinching victory.