MLB Playoffs 2013: 5 Bold Predictions for the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS
Last year in the ALDS, it took the full five games to separate the Oakland A's and the Detroit Tigers.
Detroit ultimately got the upper hand thanks in large part to the brilliance of Justin Verlander. This season, both teams are better—at least according to the standings—and the competition promises to be even fiercer.
Here are five bold predictions for the A's ALDS rematch with the Tigers.
Which A's player will be the team's postseason X-factor?
There's no one better to get the series started than the veteran Bartolo Colon.
The 40-year-old right-hander won his final four starts as he tuned up for postseason play. Last year, Colon, of course, was in the midst of his 50-game suspension for PED usage by the time the playoffs rolled around.
This year, however, he's slated to face off against Max Scherzer in Game 1 in a battle between two of the front-runners for the AL Cy Young award.
The A's will obviously want to get the win to start the series off on the right foot, but it would also do wonders for the pitchers who follow.
Playoff newcomer Sony Gray will be feeling less stressed if the A's are up 1-0 rather than down a game when he runs into Verlander in Game 2.
Jarrod Parker draws the toughest assignment of all, though, as he gets Game 3 in Detroit. As Roxy Bernstein of 95.7 FM The Game noted:
Really like Bob Melvin's decision to throw Jarrod Parker in Game 3. In 5-game series it's swing game that could be most important.— Roxy Bernstein (@roxybernstein) October 1, 2013
In that “swing” game, Parker will have the chance to make up for last October when he took the loss in Game 1 and again in Game 5. The key for the 24-year-old will be to get past the first without any damage. If he can do that, he'll be on his way.
4. One of the Detroit Starters Will Get Lit up in the 'Pit'
Last October, in Game 5 Verlander absolutely dominated the Oakland lineup. The tall right-hander racked up 11 strikeouts as he tossed a complete game shutout to punch the Tigers' ticket to the ALCS.
After that remarkable showing, Verlander had the following to say about the experience of pitching in Oakland, as reported by Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse:
Verlander called the Coliseum in this series the toughest atmosphere he has played in in his career.— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) October 12, 2012
Only the 20-game winner Scherzer and Verlander are lined up to pitch in Oakland. However, the A's did beat up on Verlander in Detroit back in August. Brandon Moss delivered the decisive blow as he took the right-hander deep. On the season, Moss has four home runs against the Tigers, and each shot has come of a different pitcher.
3. Coco Crisp Will Take Verlander Deep
Coco Crisp's largest contribution to last season's ALDS was a booting a fly ball in Game 2.
The gaffe proved costly as the A's slumped to a 5-4 loss, and the Tigers opened up a 2-0 advantage. Afterwards the usually sure-handed center fielder told Jane Lee of MLB.com: “I”m better than that.”
Now Crisp gets his chance to prove it. While his defense has been superb this season, it's with the bat that he will do the most damage. The 33-year-old has slugged a career-high 21 home runs in 2013.
Last year in Game 1 of the ALDS, the table-setter homered off Verlander to lead off the game. That was the only run the A's would get, though, as Verlander out-dueled Parker.
When facing an ace like Verlander, the best chance is to get him early. So, watch out for Crisp to ambush the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP in the first inning of Game 2.
2. The Bench Will Come up Big
In the 2012 ALDS, the A's bench was a non-factor. No stat line better underscores that fact than Jonny Gomes going 0-for-1 with a fly out in the five-game series.
In 2013, it will once again be difficult to find at-bats for lefty-mashers like Derek Norris. The Tigers don't have any left-handed starters and the team relies on just one lefty reliever in Drew Smyly. However, that doesn't mean that Melvin won't find a way to utilize his deep bench.
Don't count out Seth Smith either. The outfielder/designated hitter had a brutal second half as he posted a .211//.312/.347 slash line after the All-Star Break. Last year, in Game 3 of the series Smith hit a dinger off Anibal Sanchez. Along with an RBI single from Yoenis Cespedes, the drive was enough to give the A's the win and temporarily extend the season.
The team could have easily designated Smith for assignment in the midst of his terrible second half. Look for the veteran to reward the organization's faith by delivering a big-time hit in the opening round of the playoffs.
1. Josh Donaldson Will Hit a Walk Off
Way back on April 12 the A's took down the Tigers 4-3 in 12 innings thanks to a solo shot off the bat of Josh Donaldson. After delivering his first career walk off hit, the third baseman joked to Rick Eymer of MLB.com:
"I was kind of nervous. I didn't know when the pie was going to come."
The 27-year-old won't be nervous now.
That night in April he was batting eighth. These days, however, Donaldson is a legitimate candidate for AL MVP. The third baseman finished the season with a .301/.384/.499 slash line while clubbing 24 home runs.
His impressive displays with the bat and his glove, though, weren't enough to secure him a spot on Jim Leyland's All-Star squad. In the ALDS, Donaldson will get the chance to underscore just how poor of a decision that was.
Even though the Tigers have one of the best staffs in baseball, it's actually an excellent matchup for Donaldson. In 2013, he hit .385 against the Tigers. That's at least partially due to the fact that Donaldson is arguably the smartest hitter in the A's lineup.
The third baseman will have the chance to shank another walk off in Game 1 or 2. If the series reaches Game 5, Melvin won't mind if Donaldson comes up with the game on the line.
Do you have a bold prediction to add to the discussion? Add your own in the comment section below.
All stats courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.
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