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ALDS Recap: A's 'Moneyballing' Towards Series Clincher

Saagar Sarin |
October 7, 2013 | 8:06 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The Moneyball A's are one game away from an ALCS berth. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
The Moneyball A's are one game away from an ALCS berth. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
“Oakland has no chance in this series,” they said.

“If you have the best two pitchers in a five game series you’re guaranteed to win,” they said.

Well apparently someone forgot to give these pearls of baseball wisdom to A’s manager Bob Melvin and his motley crew, as it is Oakland and its measly $62 million-dollar payroll and not the frightening (and expensive) Tigers who now hold a 2-1 series lead in the ALDS following Monday’s early morning 6-3 win.

Saturday’s Game 2 saw one of the best pitching duels in recent memory, an old-school 1-0 victory that saw the only run of the game occur in walk-off fashion.

Heralded rookie Sonny Gray, making his first career postseason start went toe to toe with the combination of “A’s killer” Justin Verlander and his expanded strike zone courtesy of home-plate umpire CB Bucknor.

(Side Note: Think I’m lying about the lethal Bucknor-Verlander combo? Mr. Kate Upton has a career 3.41 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but with his old pal CB back there those numbers drop dramatically to 1.96 and 0.87 in his three starts with Bucknor calling the balls and strikes.)

SEE MORE: 2013 ALDS Preview: Red Sox vs. Rays

In Game 3, the A’s took a different approach and utilized the long ball, breaking a 3-3 tie in the 5th inning with two homers from Brandon Moss and Seth Smith. Oakland took a 6-3 lead that it held for the rest of the game.

On the bump, Jarrod Parker was just good enough to beat out Anibal Sanchez, who struggled uncharacteristically early on, letting Oakland jump out to an early 3-0 lead. Sanchez seemed to struggle with his control throughout the game, allowing the A’s to find an offensive groove that has been missing through their first two games.

Superstar infielder Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers solidified his place as one of the most dominant hitters in the game this year, but has been hampered all throughout the series with a groin injury. That nagging groin was certainly a factor on Monday, as Cabrera committed a costly error that allowed the first run to score in the third inning for the A’s.

Cabrera’s injury has been a dominant storyline throughout this series, as the All-Star has been held to just three hits in three games, with none of them going for extra bases, leading some to question whether Leyland should have Cabrera DH instead of using up his energy playing defense on the hot corner, which he has not done exceptionally well this series.

Grant Balfour closed down Oakland's Game 3 win in Detroit. (Wikimedia Commons)
Grant Balfour closed down Oakland's Game 3 win in Detroit. (Wikimedia Commons)

The consistently angry Grant Balfour picked up his first save of the postseason following the win he was credited with after pitching a perfect 9th in Game 2, but along the way made sure to inadvertently anger Victor Martinez and cause both benches to clear.

The Australian All-Star closer is notorious for his persistent and constant swearing when he’s on the mound. Unfortunately it seems that Martinez thought a few of these barbs were directed at him, and promptly responded with a few R-rated comments of his own. Luckily for everyone the cameras caught the audio of Martinez calling Balfour a female dog repeatedly, forcing the MLB Network commentators to awkwardly apologize to their viewers.

In a comical scene, both blenches cleared as Martinez took steps towards Balfour, starting the first documented fight in Major League history that occurred as a result of a player yelling at himself.

After those fireworks, the Tigers seemed angry and primed to mount a comeback effort, but Martinez grounded out and the next two men went down quietly, finishing the game and setting the stage for a huge game tomorrow.

SEE MORE: Tigers Finally Close Out A's Behind Verlander, Strong Staff

Game 4 will be tomorrow at 2 pm PT, with the A’s presumably tossing out the lanky right-hander Dan Straily and the Tigers expecting to throw Doug Fister.

However, with their backs against the walls, it seems highly likely that Jim Leyland will choose to go with Game 1 star Max Scherzer. Still, no official announcement has been made so for now Straily vs. Fister is listed as the probable matchup in the all-important Game 4.

While it would seem that the A’s are in the driver’s seat for the remainder of this series, the few fans in Oakland know that if Team Moneyball does not finish this one tomorrow, then the chance of it winning this series becomes extremely slim with Verlander most likely waiting for the A's in Game 5.

The former Cy Young-winner ended the Athletics' season last year in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, dominating Oakland by allowing just four hits while striking out 11, and that was in the hostile confines of Oakland as opposed to his home park like game 5 would be.

The Tigers will be focused on essentially getting through this game, knowing that they get to throw Verlander, or even Scherzer (in the unlikely case that he doesn’t pitch Game 4) in the final game of the series. With either one of them on the mound, they would only need two, maybe three, runs from their star-studded offense to get their spot in the ALCS.

Oakland outpitched Detroit in Game 2, and outslugged the Tigers in Game 3. Take away one bad inning from Bartolo Colon in the opener and the A’s have simply been the better team this series. If the Tigers are to tie this series up they’ll most likely need an absolutely dominating pitching performance from Fister or Scherzer and a superhuman effort from one of their well-paid superstars (I’m looking at you Prince Fielder. Put down the chicken wings and start swinging the bat. .250?! Really? That’s all you can do! You’re 1000 pounds!)

And if they don’t get that, then it looks like Brad Pitt will finally beat Detroit in the playoffs, and he and his daughter will live happily ever after.


Reach Staff Writer Saagar Sarin here



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