The last week of the season has been a little bit of a waiting game for the Oakland Athletics as they play out their last few games before the start of the playoffs. While it all feels a bit meaningless for the fans, this last leg of the regular season gives manager Bob Melvin a chance to evaluate his roster as he has to cut it down to 25 players for the postseason.
One area he won’t have to worry about is the starting rotation. Going into a probable Division Series matchup against the Detroit Tigers, the same team that ousted the A’s from the playoffs in 2012, circumstances are quite different from last year’s five-game classic, and there’s a lot more certainty about what these guys are capable of.
For starters, Bartolo Colon will be on the mound this time for the A’s, and after a fantastic season you’d expect him to be the Game 1 starter. His ERA of 2.65 is second-best to Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez in the American League, and although he likely won’t garner much Cy Young consideration, he can certainly be a difference-maker for Oakland in their quest for a World Series ring with his top shelf fastball.
Jarrod Parker figures to be next in line, and after a rough start in April he bounced back to become arguably the most consistent presence for the pitching staff over the entirety of the season. His WAR of 2.4 is second-highest amongst pitchers on the team, and after two starts last postseason, he’ll certainly be eager to avenge the loss he took at the hands of Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 5 that ended the A’s season.
Sonny Gray will most likely pitch Game 3, and the 22-year-old right-hander has shown every bit of the promise that surrounded his name in the minors, and in nine starts he’s got a 4-3 record with a 2.90 ERA and 59 strikeouts. At some point clubs might start figuring him out enough to make more consistent contact, but his talent is evident, and he’s been deservedly rewarded with the opportunity to start in the postseason.
A.J. Griffin will take the final spot, and it’s been an odd sophomore season for the right-hander. He leads the team with 171 strikeouts and 200 innings pitched, but he has the most losses on the staff (10) and has given up a Major league-leading 36 home runs, which could become a problem in an instant against the big-swinging Tigers.
That leaves Dan Straily off the roster, and it’s been speculated that he’ll go stay active in instructional-league games as he could get called back up for the Championship Series if needed, as teams are allowed to adjust the roster between series.
The other two members of the starting rotation to start the season, Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone, have been relegated to the bullpen because of respective injury and performance issues. It’ll be interesting to see if Melvin keeps both in the bullpen for the postseason in order to have options if a starter gets in trouble early in a game.
So there you have it. This hasn’t been a traditional season in regards to the situation with the starters, and Melvin has done another incredible job managing his pitchers once again. Each of these players is capable of shutting down an opposing lineup, and it’ll be interesting to see if they take their game to another level in the playoffs, where everything takes on a heightened sense of significance.