ALDS Game 1 Preview: Tigers at Athletics

Jason O. Watson

Here we go. The Tigers will kick off this year's playoffs in Oakland. Max Scherzer and Bartolo Colon are tonight's starting pitchers.

Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics

Series: 0-0

Time/Place: 9:30 p.m., O.Co Coliseum

SB Nation blog: Athletics Nation

Media: TBS, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Scherzer 32 214.1 10.08 2.35 0.76 0.97 2.74 2.98 6.4
Colon 30 190.1 5.53 1.37 0.66 1.17 3.23 4.17 3.9

Colon has continued to be a revelation for the A's, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.17 WHIP despite throwing his fastball 85% of the time. The two-seam movement that Athletics Nation's Alan Torres mentioned in our Q&A is there -- it's even better than his changeup -- but his real secret is his ability to buckle down with runners on base. Colon posted a strand rate of 76.3% last year and upped that figure to 80% in 2013. He held opposing hitters to a .195 batting average and a .526 OPS with runners in scoring position this season.

Of course, that's also helped by the fact that he's not allowing very many baserunners to begin with. His walk rate was second to David Price for lowest in the American League at 1.37 batters per nine innings. He allowed just over a hit per inning, but held opposing batters to a .369 slugging average. This power outage forced teams to go station-to-station against him, a tall order given the excellent defense behind him.

Colon allowed four runs in 12 innings across a pair of starts against the Tigers this year, with three of them coming on one swing of the bat from Prince Fielder back in April. The Tigers blew him up in a start in 2012* though, scoring eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings. They were very aggressive early in counts, attacking fastballs with abandon. Colon faced 17 batters in that start, but only threw 44 pitches. They tried a similar approach in 2013, but clearly didn't have the same success.

Max Scherzer had his worst start of an otherwise spectacular season against the A's in August, allowing six runs (five earned) in five innings. This came as a bit of a surprise, as Scherzer had some excellent career numbers against the A's prior to that start. Even with the rough outing factored in, he has 51 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 30 career regular season innings against them. If he can gets swings and misses -- easier said than done, considering the A's cut their whiff percentage by nearly a full percentage point this year -- then he should be successful.

*Here's an omen for you: Max Scherzer started that game for the Tigers.

Question of the day: Should Ramon Santiago start?

Hear me out: in 28 career plate appearances against Bartolo Colon, Santiago is hitting .423/.444/.615 with four extra base hits. There isn't a case for or against Omar Infante -- he's 2-for-7 lifetime against Colon -- but for whatever reason Santiago has hit well in a not-so-small of a sample.

Outlook

A lot of Tigers fans are nervous about the outcome of this series given that the Tigers limped to the end of the regular season -- both literally and figuratively. However, the Tigers are the more talented team and will have the pitching advantage in each game this series. Scherzer's career numbers against the A's speak for themselves and I think the Tigers have too much experience to be rattled by the atmosphere tonight. If their offense gets rolling like it did earlier this year in Oakland, look out.

Prediction

Scherzer only gets through six but the bullpen makes an early lead stand up for a 1-0 series lead.

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