A’s at Tigers
Series: ALDS, Game 2, Tigers lead 1-0
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
TV: MLB Network
Game 1 of this series went exactly as expected, with Justin Verlander tossing seven dominant innings to lead the Tigers to a 3-1 win over Jarrod Parker and the A’s. The A’s were prepared to take that loss, hoping simply to leave Detroit with at least a split, but that doesn’t make Game 2 any less of a must-win. If the Tigers win this game, they’ll need just one victory in Oakland, and will have Verlander lurking for Game 5 if they can’t get the job done any sooner. The A’s don’t want to be up against that scenario, and thus need to win Game 2 behind 25-year-old rookie Tommy Milone to make this a series.
Milone is a soft-tossing lefty control artist who generates a lot of fly balls and relies heavily on a changeup that’s only about six miles per hour slower than his high-80s fastball, but has good downward movement. He’s really a pitch-to-contact innings eater, but every so often he’ll have a little something extra and toss seven-plus scoreless innings (which he did four times this season, twice against contenders) or rack up double-digit strikeouts (which he did twice in the second half) or both, as he did against the Yankees on July 20. Oakland is hoping he has that something extra on Sunday.
The A’s won Milone’s final five starts in the regular season, with Milone posting a 2.60 ERA along the way. One of those came in Detroit, but it was the worst of the bunch as he gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He fared better against the Tigers in Oakland back in May, when he held them to two runs, one earned across seven innings and struck out six.
Opposing Milone will be six-foot-eight righty Doug Fister, who went 8-4 with a 2.67 ERA in his final 15 starts of the regular season and pitched six strong innings (1 R, 8 K) against the A’s back in May in his only start against them this season. Again, Coco Crisp, who led off Game 1 with a home run off Verlander, is one of the batters to watch in this matchup as he is 6-for-12 with two triples against Fister, most of that coming last year.
The two starting pitchers so dominated Game 1 that there’s not much that else that can be gleaned from that game, though it must be encouraging to the A’s that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder were a combined 0-for-7, with Parker getting Fielder to pop out after his lone walk to Cabrera in the fourth. Another important hurdle cleared in that game was Pat Neshek’s first outing since the tragic death of his newborn son on Wednesday. Neshek, who returned to the team with his wife in part because staying home was becoming unbearable, retired the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning, looking sharp, though he was also nearly overwhelmed by emotion.
Parker gave the A’s a strong 6 1/3 innings in Game 1, meaning Neshek and lefty Jerry Blevins, who threw a perfect eighth, getting both Cabrera and Fielder to fly out, were the only relievers Oakland needed. With a travel day on Monday, that means Bob Melvin will be free to go to his bullpen early and often in Game 2, if necessary. The same is true for Jim Leyland and the Tigers, as the only relief help Verlander needed was a pair of scoreless innings from Detroit's relief aces, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, who retired six of the seven men they faced to nail down the win. -- By Cliff Corcoran