The last time the Oakland A’s visited Detroit in the MLB postseason, Magglio Ordonez delivered one of the most memorable moments in Tigers franchise history, driving a Huston Street pitch into the left-field stands for a walk-off homer that sent the Tigers to the World Series.
A lot has changed since that dramatic night in 2006. But the stakes will be almost as high when the A’s and Tigers open up the American League Division Series this weekend. Games 1 and 2 will be at Comerica Park on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, with Games 3 through 5 in Oakland.
What do the AL Central champion Tigers need to do to get one step closer to their World Series dreams? We preview the ALDS in our latest Roundtable …
1. Will playing Games 1 and 2 at home help the Tigers?
Chris Burke: Only if they win both games … But in reality, the biggest advantage of opening at home is that the Tigers get to roll Justin Verlander out at Comerica Park to open the series. Verlander had a 1.65 (!!) ERA at home this season, compared to 3.57 on the road. Get that first one with Verlander out there, and the pressure falls squarely on Oakland to respond.
Max DeMara: Yes, opening at home will help the Tigers. They can blast off to a fast start in front of their fans instead of having to worry about coming from behind. If they’re able to build a commanding series lead, they can relax and play their game on the road instead of worrying about a split.
Benjamin Singer: No question. Their record at home is great. Their record on the road stinks.
Rob Starrs: Starting at home will be huge, just look at the Tigers’ record at Comerica Park this year. I also just feel like Detroit’s pitchers perform so much better in front of a rowdy Comerica Park crowd.
Andrew Tomlinson: Yes, how can it not? The stadium is built for the lefties in the lineup and Detroit has one of the best defensive outfield patrolling the caverns in left and right field. Oh, and those Tigers fans surely have something to do with them having one of the top home records in the majors.
2. What’s your biggest concern about the matchup with the A’s?
Burke: The Tigers’ bullpen, sure. Keeping the starting pitching hot. Scoring runs. Yada yada yada … the biggest issue right now is that the A’s seem to have an abundance of good mojo on their side — so much so that they remind me of the 2006 Tigers. Detroit needs to squash the Oakland momentum from the get-go.
DeMara: Though you might not hear much about it because of its pitching, Oakland has some sneaky good hitters, too. Josh Reddick is my personal favorite to mention, as he’s having a fantastic year and has great hair. The biggest concern, though, is the A’s are a young team with nothing to lose. They’ll be loose and confident heading into the playoffs scorching hot.
Singer: The A’s are smoking hot right now. Hopefully, Comerica cools them off.
Starrs: I guess the concern isn’t as much with the As — I’m more concerned about the Tigers giving them opportunities with poor defense. If there was a concern about Oakland, it would be the fact that the A’s are coming in on hot streak and riding high having won the West in game 162.
Tomlinson: Is Brandon Inge an option? In reality, it is obviously the pitching. The Tigers have at times struggled at the plate for long periods of time, and Oakland boasts one of the best rotations in the majors.
3. What has to happen for Detroit to take down Oakland?
Burke: Austin Jackson has to have a strong series. We can be pretty confident at this point that the contributions from the Delmon Youngs and Jhonny Peraltas of the world will be sporadic, but if Jackson can set the table for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers will score a few runs. And with their starting pitching, they shouldn’t need a ton.
DeMara: Consistent offense from those not named Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder. Last year, it was Delmon Young coming up with some clutch hits and homers against the Yankees. Detroit will have to find a few surprise performers again, in addition to the big bats if they wish to keep advancing.
Singer: Either the starting pitchers for Detroit have to pitch complete game shutouts or they need to avoid a bullpen implosion. Benoit, Valverde, Coke … I’m looking in your directions.
Starrs: Detroit has to hit, it is that simple. They hit, they win.
Tomlinson: Everything — pitching, hitting, defense — but more than anything Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have to be pitched to. If no one is getting on around them, do not expect either of those guys to see a pitch worth hitting, and that will make it very hard for the Tigers to score runs.
4. What is your prediction for the series?
Burke: Fine, I’ll go out on the limb — Tigers in 3. As terrific as Oakland’s pitching as been this season, Detroit will roll Verlander and Doug Fister in Games 1 and 2 at home, then come back with either Max Scherzer or a locked-in Anibal Sanchez in Game 3. I don’t think Oakland can score enough to keep up.
DeMara: It will be anxious at moments, but the Tigers get the job done in five games.
Singer: Tigers win the first two. Then Oakland wins two. Then JV closes it out for Detroit in Game 5. A bunch of painfully stressful, low-scoring games.
Starrs: Tigers in 4.
Tomlinson: Man, this one is tough, but the A’s are on fire and I have a feeling coming back from three down with three to go against the Rangers took a lot out of them mentally. I think the Tigers hold serve at home and take one on the road to take the series in four.