A look at the best-of-five American League division series between the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers:
(All times EDT) Game 1, Saturday, at Detroit (6:07 p.m.); Game 2, Sunday, at Detroit (TBA); Game 3, Tuesday, at Oakland (TBA); x-Game 4, Wednesday, at Oakland (TBA); x-Game 5, Thursday, at Oakland (TBA). (All games on TBS or MLB Network)
Season Series: Tigers won 4-3.
Athletics: CF Coco Crisp (.259, 11 HRs, 46 RBIs, 39 SBs), SS Stephen Drew (.223, 7, 28 with Diamondbacks and A’s), LF Yoenis Cespedes (.292, 23, 82, 16 SBs), 1B Brandon Moss (.291, 21, 52), RF Josh Reddick (.242, 32, 85, 15 assists), 3B Josh Donaldson (.241, 9, 33), DH Seth Smith (.240, 14, 52) or Jonny Gomes (.262, 18, 47), C George Kottaras (.212, 9, 31 with Brewers and A’s) or Derek Norris (.201, 7, 34), 2B Cliff Pennington (.215, 6, 28) or Adam Rosales (.222, 2, 8).
Tigers: CF Austin Jackson (.300, 16, 66, 10 triples), LF Quintin Berry (.258, 2, 29, 21/21 SBs), 3B Miguel Cabrera (.330, 44, 139 for baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967), 1B Prince Fielder (.313, 30, 108), DH Delmon Young (.267, 18, 74), RF Andy Dirks (.322, 8, 35), SS Jhonny Peralta (.239, 13, 63), C Alex Avila (.243, 9, 48), 2B Omar Infante (.274, 12, 53 with Marlins and Tigers).
Athletics: RH Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47 ERA), LH Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74), LH Brett Anderson (4-2, 2.57 in 6 starts), RH A.J. Griffin (7-1, 3.06).
Tigers: RH Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64, ML-leading 239 Ks), RH Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45), RH Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74, 231 Ks), RH Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 with Marlins and Tigers).
Athletics: RH Grant Balfour (3-2, 2.53, 24/26 saves), RH Ryan Cook (6-2, 2.09, 14/21 saves), LH Sean Doolittle (2-1, 3.04), LH Jerry Blevins (5-1, 2.48, .183 BA vs. LH), RH Jim Miller (2-1, 2.59), LH Travis Blackley (6-4, 3.86).
Tigers: RH Jose Valverde (3-4, 3.78, 35/40 saves), RH Joaquin Benoit (5-3, 3.68, 84 Ks, 71 IP), RH Octavio Dotel (5-3, 3.57), RH Al Alburquerque (0-0, 0.68 in 8 games following elbow surgery), LH Phil Coke (2-3, 4.00), RH Brayan Villarreal (3-5, 2.63, 66 Ks, 54 2-3 IP), LH Drew Smyly (4-3, 3.99 in 23 games, 18 starts) or RH Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59 in 31 starts).
The A’s were swept by Detroit in the 2006 ALCS, ending their last playoff trip. Detroit won the pennant on a home run by Magglio Ordonez. … The teams split a four-game series in Oakland in May, and Detroit won two of three at home in September. … Smith had good success against the Tigers this season, hitting .417 with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs. … Reddick also homered twice vs. Detroit this season. … Cespedes missed the series in May with an injury. … Anderson allowed three runs in 2 1-3 innings in his one start vs. the Tigers before leaving with an oblique injury that sidelined him for the last two weeks of the regular season. … Crisp is 8 for 22 in his career against Verlander. No other A’s player has more than two hits against the Tigers ace. … Verlander and Scherzer finished 1-2 in the majors in strikeouts, and they’ll face an Oakland team that whiffed more than any other in baseball. … Verlander won both his starts this year against Oakland, allowing one run in 13 innings. … Detroit OF Avisail Garcia was called up late in the season and hit .326 in 22 games. He could be an option against left-handers in place of Berry or Dirks. Brennan Boesch can also add pop to the outfield, but he hit only .240 this season. … Coke has been fairly effective against left-handed batters this year, but righties hit .396 off him.
Athletics: This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Oakland after GM Billy Beane traded top starters Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill and closer Andrew Bailey in the offseason to give the team the lowest opening-day payroll in the majors at $53 million. Instead, manager Bob Melvin led a collection of rookies and misfits to the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2006. … After a rocky start, Oakland (94-68) has a major league-best 72-38 record since June 2, with big performances from players acquired in those deals such as Parker, Milone, Reddick, Cook and Norris. … The A’s became the fifth team to overcome a deficit of at least 13 games and finish in first place, and the first to overcome a five-game deficit with fewer than 10 games remaining. … The one major offseason addition was Cuban defector Cespedes, who proved worthy of the $36 million, four-year deal he got from the normally thrifty A’s. … The A’s got 56 HRs and 54 wins from their rookies, joining the 2006 Marlins as the only teams to get at least 50 of both in the same season. … Oakland finished the season with five rookie starters and the 54 wins from rookies are the most ever for a playoff team. … The A’s set an AL record with 1,387 strikeouts but made up for it by leading the majors with 112 HRs after the All-Star break. Oakland hit 195 long balls overall, with three players reaching 20 and eight hitting double digits. … The A’s .238 average is the lowest for a playoff team since Detroit hit .235 in 1968 — the year before the mound was lowered. … Oakland was shut out 16 times.
Tigers: It wasn’t as easy as many expected, but Detroit (88-74) finally wrested the AL Central title away from the fading Chicago White Sox down the stretch to reach the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1934-35. … Cabrera’s charge to the Triple Crown began in earnest on Aug. 1. Since then, he’s hit .344 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs in 57 games. … Verlander threw a career-high six complete games and is in contention for a second straight Cy Young Award. … From June 17 on, Scherzer went 11-3 with a 2.53 ERA. He was slowed by a shoulder problem in late September, but pitched four innings in the regular-season finale and seems good to go for the playoffs. … The Tigers grounded into a major league-leading 156 double plays. They stole 59 bases, the second-fewest in the majors. … Detroit manager Jim Leyland is making his seventh postseason appearance. He is 32-28 in postseason games. … The Tigers lost to Texas in the 2011 AL championship series and signed Fielder last winter after slugger Victor Martinez sustained a season-ending knee injury. … Sanchez allowed only 13 earned runs in his last eight starts. Five of them were in one game — against the A’s on Sept. 20. … After going all of 2011 without blowing a save, Valverde was a more pedestrian 35 for 40 this year. … Benoit’s 3.68 ERA was his highest since 2008. He allowed 14 homers, his most since he became exclusively a reliever. … Fielder played 162 games for the third time in four years. … The Tigers have four regulars with an OPS of at least .856 — Cabrera, Fielder, Dirks and Jackson. Then it’s a substantial drop to Avila at .736. … Backup catcher Gerald Laird provided a lift by hitting .282 in 63 games. … Detroit finished sixth in the AL in runs. The Tigers were 10th in homers — with Cabrera and Fielder accounting for more than 45 percent of the team’s total of 163.
— Swingin’ A’s. Few teams relied on the home run ball as much as the Athletics, who were second-to-last in the league in batting average. Oakland went 78-38 when homering in a game and 41-14 when hitting at least two. The A’s were just 16-30 when they failed to go deep.
— Heart of the Order. Cabrera was intentionally walked five times in last year’s postseason — and that was before he went out and won the Triple Crown. One way to approach the Tigers is to limit the damage Cabrera and Fielder can do and hope for rally-killing double-play balls from other hitters. Easier said than done.
— Mighty ‘Pen. Oakland’s bullpen was young but effective, with Cook making the All-Star team as a rookie and converted first baseman Doolittle providing a midseason boost less than a year after changing positions. The big key came when Balfour won back his closing job Aug. 11, He converted all 17 save chances down the stretch.
— Making Contact. Detroit’s defense hasn’t been pretty — Jackson is the team’s only real standout with the glove. But the Tigers’ fielding issues won’t be much of a problem in this series if Verlander, Scherzer and Co. prevent the strikeout-prone A’s from making contact in the first place.
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