Detroit Tigers (5-4) at Oakland Athletics (7-2)*
Time/Place: 10:05 p.m., O.co Coliseum
SB Nation blog: Athletics Nation
Pitching Matchup: RHP Max Scherzer (1-0, 7.20 ERA) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (1-0, 4.50 ERA)
The 39 year old Colon made his first start of the season on April 6th after finishing his suspension from last season for PEDs, and it was more of the same that we saw in 2012. Colon earned a quality start with three earned runs on eight hits and no walks in six innings. While caveats about the Houston Astros apply, this was nothing new for Colon. His walk rate has been steadily declining for the last five years, bottoming out at a minuscule 1.36 batters per nine innings in 2012. He threw 38 consecutive strikes in one start last season against a team that wasn't the Tigers. They pounded him to the tune of eight runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings in his only appearance against them.
Colon relies primarily on a couple different types of fastballs in the high 80s, but mixes in a slider and changeup in the low 80s to keep hitters honest. He threw his two-seamer 55.8% of the time last year and his four-seamer 34.3% of the time. Despite this extreme reliance on his fastball -- particularly the two-seamer -- Colon's ground ball rate was fairly average in 2012. He allowed fly balls on 36.3% of batted balls, which plays well in the spacious O.co Coliseum. His ERA was slightly higher at home than on the road last season, but his WHIP was just 1.090 in Oakland compared to 1.374 elsewhere.
Scherzer wasn't his best in his last start, but he picked up the victory thanks to a boatload of run support in an 8-4 victory. While we would like to see the ERA go down, I was encouraged by his ability to throw all three of his pitches for strikes. Over 70% of the sliders and changeups he threw were for strikes, a number inflated somewhat by excellent whiff rates and the general small sampleness of one start. Given that he only threw 87 pitches to get through those five innings, he was arguably the most efficient Tigers starter during their first turn through the rotation.
Oakland A's: offensive juggernaut
Through nine games played, the A's had scored an MLB-best 58 runs, hit an MLB-best 16 home runs, and were sporting an MLB-best .859 slugging average. These numbers are only going to go up. As I write this, the A's are leading the Angels 6-1 and have hit two more home runs. Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie have combined for seven of the team's 18 (and counting) home runs, so don't expect this trend to hold all season long.
Weird stuff always happens on the west coast, so pretty much anything I say about this game probably goes out the window the minute the Tigers' plane landed in Oakland yesterday. That said, I'll do my best anyway.
The A's aren't the same strikeout-happy team that they were last season, and while part of that is due to early season small sample sizes, the additions of walk machines John Jaso and Jed Lowrie have helped quite a bit. Scherzer will still rack up his strikeouts, but he will need to command all of his pitches for strikes in order to move through this more patient lineup efficiently. The A's offense is red hot right now, but a series with the Tigers' rotation might be enough to cool them off.
Scherzer picks up a quality start and the Tigers hold off a late rally to win their second straight game.