Series: 1-0, Detroit
Time/Place: 12:00 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation Blog: Athletics Nation
Pitching Matchup: LHP Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA) vs. RHP Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45 ERA)
Milone was great for the A's this season and had a great stretch run, but all anyone seems to be focusing on lately are his home/road splits this year. In their defense, they are pretty awful. Milone had a 4.83 ERA and 1.522 WHIP on the road this year. At home, these numbers were 2.74 and 1.054, respectively. The irony? Milone was actually excellent on the road down the stretch. He had four road starts in August and September, two of which were against playoff teams, and allowed a combined five earned runs in 22 2/3 innings.
The silver lining in that last sentence for Tigers fans is that three of the five runs that Milone allowed in that stretch came in just 4 2/3 innings at Comerica Park on September 20th. He also pitched seven innings of one-run ball in May, striking out six Tigers hitters. Don't be surprised to see Avisail Garcia -- who had two hits off of Milone in September -- in right field today.
Even before Fister became the tour de force that he has evolved into in a Tigers uniform, he was a very good pitcher against the A's. He is 5-4 with a 2.54 ERA against Oakland in his career. As a Tiger, Fister is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA against the A's in two starts. One of the most promising things about Fister's second half as it pertains to this game is the increase in his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was humming along at a respectable 3.20 K/BB rate in the first half, but this jumped to 4.05 after the All-Star Break. This is a very promising sign against a disciplined A's lineup (more on that below).
1. I was wrong about shutting down Alex Avila for the rest of the season. I am glad that I was.
2. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Pat Neshek after his performance last night.
3. Seriously, we are blessed to have Justin Verlander on this team.
More on strikeouts
While the A's struck out more often than any other AL team this season, they actually showed excellent plate discpline. As a team, the A's only swung at 28% of the pitches that they saw outside of the strike zone, second only to the Cleveland Indians' ridiculous 27% O-swing percentage. So how did they strike out so often? By having one of the worst contact percentages in baseball, at 77.8%. While Verlander became very effective in the later innings of last night's game, I'd expect that Fister will be better early in the game.
While the early start isn't exactly convenient for either team, I think that it puts the A's at a much greater disadvantage. If you think about it, they are basically waking up to play a game at 9 in the morning. Add in the fact that they are facing a red-hot Fister and you've got a recipe for disaster... if you're an Oakland fan. If the Tigers can get over the fact that Milone is a soft-tossing lefty, this could shape up to be a fairly easygoing afternoon.
Fister puts the A's on the brink of elimination with a masterful performance.