Time/Place: 6 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Blog: Athletics Nation
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64 ERA)
Much to the delight of the commenters at Athletics Nation, Parker is getting the ball for Game 1. He finished the season on a tear, going 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in September and October. He was able to work deep into games by keeping his walk rate low and keeping runners off base, posting a 1.073 WHIP during the A's improbable stretch run. Overall, Parker's numbers took a turn for the worse in the second half despite cutting his walk rate in half. The reason? Parker's BABIP jumped from .264 in the first half to .318 after the All-Star Break. His home/road splits aren't too promising either: Parker's ERA is nearly two runs higher away from the Oakland Coliseum.
Parker's only start against the Tigers this year came back in May at the Coliseum. He allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings of work, taking the loss because his offense was only able to scrape one run together against Tigers starter Justin Verlander. The main offensive contributors for the Tigers that day? Miguel Cabrera and Brennan Boesch had five of the Tigers' eight hits, while Boesch and Austin Jackson scored all three runs.
Verlander is 2-0 against the A's this year, picking up W's in the game mentioned above as well as a 6-2 Tigers victory on September 19th at Comerica Park. JV was on his game in Oakland, allowing just one run on two hits in seven innings of work. He struck out eight hitters while walking just one batter, a far cry from the 5:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio he had in his September start against Oakland. Whether this was a product of Verlander being particularly wild that evening or if the A's were working the count effectively -- a strategy also used by the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers this year -- remains to be seen.
Guys that strike a lot of people out vs. guys that strike out a lot
One of the more intriguing matchups in this series is the Tigers pitching staff going up against the free-swinging A's lineup. The A's struck out in 22.7% of all plate appearances this season, the highest percentage in the American League. Meanwhile, the Tigers pitching staff struck out 8.29 hitters per 9 innings, the second-highest value in the American League. The starters' 8.19 K/9 ratio was the highest in the AL. The real question to ask isn't whether the A's will strike out (because they will, and a lot), but rather whether they will be able to elevate pitch counts enough to get to the Tigers' vulnerable middle relief corps. If Verlander gets into the 7th inning or later, the A's are in trouble.
Oddly enough, Parker's improved command might be his downfall against a Tigers squad that has a tendency to swing at bad pitches. Still, you don't start in Game 1 without a reason, and Parker has definitely provided that this year. Expect both pitchers to struggle with nerves early, but the guy that can calm down faster and get into a groove will have the upper hand going forward. I don't know about you, but I like the guy that has been here before.
JV ends the talk of poor postseason performances by cruising through the middle innings en route to a Game 1 victory.