While the Detroit Tigers are happy to see Prince Fielder has transformed his fortunes against the Oakland Athletics, they hope nothing changes with Justin Verlander’s recent history in the series.
The Tigers’ staff ace looks to continues his dominance over red-hot Oakland, which seeks its best start in 32 years and a 10th consecutive victory Saturday afternoon.
Fielder, batting .417 with 17 RBIs, arrived in Oakland with a .125 lifetime average in 12 games against the A’s, including last year’s division series, but went 4 for 5 with a three-run homer and a double in Friday’s series opener.
The Tigers (5-5), though, couldn’t hold on to that early three-run cushion and fell 4-3 in 12 innings on Josh Donaldson’s second homer in as many nights. The A’s had a major league-best 14 walkoff wins in 2012 en route to winning their first AL West title in six years.
“We’re trying to go out there and win a lot of games right now,” Donaldson said.
The win gives Oakland (9-2) a chance for its best start since winning 11 straight to open the 1981 season. The A’s also prevailed in 17 of their first 19 that year.
Oakland, though, will next face Verlander (1-1, 2.19 ERA), who has a 0.49 ERA in winning his past five matchups including last year’s playoffs. The right-hander earned two wins in the division series and had a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in the deciding Game 5 in Oakland.
After winning his season debut April 1 in Minnesota, Verlander was outdueled by the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia in a 7-0 home defeat Sunday. He allowed three runs and seven hits over 7 1-3 innings, and he gave up two of those runs on Jayson Nix’s homer.
“I thought he did a great. He made a couple of mistakes in the (three-run) second inning but then it was the Justin Verlander of old,” outfielder Torii Hunter said.
The A’s will turn to Brett Anderson (1-1, 1.38), who has also been successful in his recent games against Detroit. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in his last four matchups, including a 2-0 win in Game 3 of last year’s playoffs.
After being on the wrong end of a 2-0 result in Seattle on April 1, Anderson earned a win in Houston on Sunday by allowing two unearned runs over six innings and matching a career high with 10 strikeouts. He also needed X-rays after the game because two Astros hits went off his left thumb and wrist.
Hunter, who was initially held out of the lineup Friday for some rest, is slated to start in Saturday’s contest. Hunter, batting .409 in his first 10 games with Detroit, is 7 for 16 (.438) all-time against Anderson with two home runs.
“I gave him (Friday) off because I want him to play tomorrow for sure,” manager Jim Leyland told the team’s website. “I thought this was a good time. I want to be careful with him. I want to watch him, obviously. I didn’t want him off (Saturday) because we have a lefty (Brett Anderson), a tough lefty.”
Miguel Cabrera is 3 for 10 against Anderson, including the playoffs, while Fielder is 0 for 3 with a walk.
Oakland hasn’t won 10 in a row since June 8-18, 2006.
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