It is time for many MLB players to get a much needed rest after a long and draining season. Of course, some teams, like the Oakland Athletics, will not yet get the prolonged rest offered to teams missing out on the playoffs.
The A’s are not quite ready to rest, though, earning their second straight AL West champoinship.
The A’s now have to look toward the playoffs, where they will find themselves in a situation very similar to that of last year’s team. They have home-field advantage in the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. It is all too familiar for the A’s, who last year stormed back from two games down only to lose in a crushing defeat in Game 5. The Tigers went on to get swept in the World Series by the Oakland Athletics’ rival across the Golden Gate.
This, however, is a new year. Many players from last years team remain, but this team is by no means identical to last years. Some players have disappointed while others have stepped up, but maybe the biggest difference between this year’s team and that of last year is the mindset. Last year the A’s were the surprise of the year, bursting onto the scene as the team who made the magical run.
This year, they have proven that they are here to stay. This year, they will be a team with playoff experience. This year, they are looking to show that the they are not just playoff contenders, but World Series contenders as well.
Still, the Detroit Tigers stand in their way. With great pitching and great hitting, the Tigers will be a tough match for the Oakland Athletics. The A’s will have their work cut out for home from the mound and behind the plate.
BEHIND THE PLATE:
The Tigers have strengthened their pitching since last year. Justin Verlander is a household name for a reason. Even though he has had a down year (by his standards) he is still one of the most dangerous pitchers in baseball. Anibal Sanchez has been among the most consistent pitchers in the majors, and Doug Fister has had a solid season. And then there is Max Scherzer. He has just dominated hitters this year, earning a remarkable 21 wins with just three losses this season. Because of the playoff rotation, the A’s will not face a ragtag fifth starter. The bullpen in Detroit isn’t bad either. Drew Smyly and Jose Veras are shutdown pitchers and Joaquin Benoit is a top closer.
The Athletics will be hard pressed to put loads of runs on the board. That said, the A’s had success hitting the Tigers in August. They hit all four starters for at least four runs and forced the bullpen to surrender even more. The whole lineup has continued to hit very well in the last month of the season as well. A hot A’s lineup is not intimidated by this pitching unit, and, despite the pithing strength of the Tigers, it would be unfair to assume Tigers pitching will dominate the Oakland Athletics.
ON THE MOUND:
It is not often that you see a team with as much pitching and hitting talent as the Detroit Tigers. The talent of the lineup is seen just by looking at the names and paychecks. This talent is shown on the field. Miguel Cabrera is arguably the best hitter in the league. Prince Fielder can anchor a lineup. Austin Jackson, Victor Martinez, and Torii Hunter would be among the top hitters on any team. These players overshadow Omar Infante, Jose Iglesias, Alex Avila, and Andy Dirks who are no pushovers. There are no weaknesses in this lineup and it will take great pitching to be able to slow down this offense.
The A’s do have good pitching, though. If Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker pitch up to their potential and the bullpen is consistent, the A’s can hold the Tigers just enough to advance to the ALCS.
The Detroit Tigers present more of a challenge than any other team the Oakland Athletics will face. The A’s have a good shot at beating the Red Sox/Rays/Indians in the ALCS. If the A’s can get through this series, they will have a decent shot at making a World Series run.