Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A's: Keys to Each Team Winning ALDS Game 5
Raise your hand if you've seen this story before.
The A's will look to avenge last season's ALDS Game 5 loss to Detroit when the Tigers won behind Justin Verlander's four-hit shutout in Oakland.
This has been the most exciting back-and-forth series thus far in the 2013 MLB postseason and is the last one left that has yet to crown a winner.
The Tigers will again send Verlander to the mound, while the A's will counter with rookie Sonny Gray.
Here are the keys for both teams in this do-or-die ALDS Game 5.
Key for Detroit: Don't Let the Bats Disappear
If you don't score runs, you can't win games.
It sounds like a simple recipe, but for some reason or another, even with the All-Star lineup that the Tigers boast, their bats just seem to go away during the most crucial times in the postseason.
Going into Game 4, the Tigers had only managed to score in two of the first 27 innings of the series.
Detroit wasted a masterful performance by Justin Verlander, who threw seven scoreless innings in Game 2, where even one run would've changed the outcome for the Tigers.
The Tigers' offensive collapse brings back sour memories from the 2012 World Series, when Detroit's hitters combined for a .159 average, scoring just six runs in four games, as they were swept out of the Fall Classic by the San Francisco Giants.
Austin Jackson had been one of the biggest disappointments of the series, going 1-for-14 leading up to his last at-bat in Game 4.
Jackson had struck out 10 times in the series including three K's in his first three at-bats on Tuesday night before stepping to the plate in the seventh inning. He faced an 0-2 count and looked like he was going to suffer his fourth strikeout of the game when he lined a broken-bat single to shallow right field to give the Tigers the lead.
When Jackson produces as the leadoff hitter, he makes the whole team go.
The Tigers came out of their offensive funk in Game 4 on Tuesday night, scoring eight runs on nine hits over eight innings. Detroit scored in three different innings and was finally able to feel good about itself at the plate and carry some confidence into Game 5.
Key for Oakland: Rally Around Rookie Starter
Instead of starting grizzled veteran Bartolo Colon in Game 5, the A's have opted to give the ball to rookie sensation Sonny Gray.
Colon suffered the loss to Detroit in Game 1, and while Gray didn't earn the win in Game 2, he went pitch for pitch with Justin Verlander, throwing eight scoreless innings while only giving up four hits.
Gray struck out nine batters and only walked two in Game 2. He wasn't rattled by the spotlight, the opponent or the opposing pitcher on the mound.
Gray and the A's need to go into Game 5 with the same amount of confidence that they showed in Game 2 to have a chance.
Having made his major league debut in July, Gray doesn't have a lot of experience, but in this case, ignorance could be bliss for the 23-year-old right-hander.
He doesn't know that he's not supposed to succeed on this stage.
The A's need to have confidence in their rookie hurler and rally around him.
Key for Detroit: Peralta Stays Hot
Any questions of whether Jhonny Peralta deserved to be on Detroit's postseason roster after his 50-game suspension have long since been put to bed.
After hitting .303 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI in 107 regular-season games, Peralta returned from suspension just in time to help the Tigers' struggling offense.
He has stepped up at the most important times during his two starts in the ALDS, going 3-for-7 with a three-run home run and five crucial RBI.
Unlike most of the Tigers, Peralta hasn't been striking out this series—only fanning in one of his eight at-bats. He has also grinded out his plate appearances, coming up huge for the Tigers and giving them a tremendous amount of energy.
If Peralta gets a key hit in Game 5, he could open the floodgates of Detroit's offense just like he did in Game 4.
Key for Oakland: Embrace the Moment
You play 162 regular-season games to earn the right to play this game at home.
That's what the regular season is about: To have a do-or-die postseason game at your ballpark.
The A's have one of the biggest home-field advantages in all of sports. The fans in Oakland are going to give the Tigers everything they have in Game 5, and the A's should enjoy every minute of it.
The O.co Coliseum will be rocking with 45,000-plus gold-and-green-clad crazies who will do everything they can to rattle the Tigers and give their beloved A's any kind of edge.
The A's need to take advantage of it.
After Oakland's meltdown in Game 4 in giving up a three-run lead in Detroit and allowing the Tigers to force a Game 5, a lot of people are saying the series is already over. They claim the Tigers ripped the heart out of the A's.
But the Oakland fans won't allow a heartless team to take the field on Thursday night.
The A's need to embrace the moment and forget everything that's happened to this point.
It's one game at home for the chance to go to the ALCS.
Key for Detroit: Verlander Is Himself
Before the season started, if you told Tigers fans they'd have Justin Verlander on the mound in a winner-take-all Game 5 for the chance to go the ALCS, I think they would have been pretty optimistic.
Verlander struggled with his command all season, raising doubters of his ability for the first time in his career.
Suddenly, Verlander was just another pitcher. However, the pitcher we saw go 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA in the regular season wasn't the real Verlander.
The real Verlander toed the rubber in Game 2 against the A's, lasting seven innings and giving up only four hits and no runs in a masterful performance.
If the Tigers had just scored one run in that game, we're probably previewing the ALCS right now.
But Verlander knows what he's capable of, and he knows how important games like this are.
“It’s what you play the game for. It’s exciting. This is what you dream of as a kid, be on the mound in a clinching game,” he said after Game 4, via Matthew B. Mowery of The Oakland Press. “You don’t pretend. It’s not just another game. The season is on the line. It was on the line for us (Tuesday), too. This whole season, the way we battled and played as a team, comes down to one game, may the best team win.”
Now he just has to perform like himself.