Preview: A’s @ Tigers ALDS Game 5
It all comes down to this. Put up or shut up for both the Tigers and the A’s. Bob Melvin had the biggest decision going into this one in choosing who his starting pitcher would be and late last night chose Sonny Gray to take the hill to square off in a rematch of Game Two against Justin Verlander. The first two games in Oakland were all about the pitching but the bats of both clubs awakened in Detroit though neither club has particularly impressive offensive numbers right now with the A’s hitting .243/.307/.434 for the series slightly edging out Detroit’s .234/.290/.320 line. The story of Game Two was how Gray kept up with Verlander he and will be tasked with doing it for a second straight night. Can he replicate the eight inning, four hit, two walk, nine strikeout performance he brought? That will determine whether or not the A’s win because Verlander certainly has replicated his seven inning, four hit, one walk, eleven strikeout performance before.
Along with the change in starting pitchers Melvin has one other (long overdue) adjustment to his lineup which top to bottom will be: Coco Crisp CF, Josh Donaldson 3B, Jed Lowrie SS, Yoenis Cespedes LF, Seth Smith DH, Brandon Moss 1B, Alberto Callaspo 2B, Josh Reddick RF, Stephen Vogt C. The big change being that Eric Sogard (0-for-9, BB, K) is being replaced by Callaspo (1-for-3, with a double and K). The other significant move is moving Moss (2-for-15, HR, 3 BBs) down in the order and sliding Cespedes (7-for-18, double, triple, HR and 4 Ks) and Smith (5-for-12, HR, BB and 3 Ks) up. I think this game really hinges on Smith. He has had a good series, he will be hitting ahead of Moss and needs to sort of set the table for him and hitting behind Cespedes who has been adept at getting on will mean he needs to improve upon his 3-for-18 with a HR, 6 BB and 5K record against Verlander. If Smith does well, I feel the A’s can really win this game, he is the one Athletic who needs to change their history against Verlander (for what it is worth he went 1-for-3 against him in Game Two).
Jim Leyland meanwhile goes for more offense as he changes things up a bit: Austin Jackson CF, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 3B, Prince Fielder 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Jhonny Peralta SS, Alex Avila C, Omar Infante 2B, Don Kelly LF. Out is Jose Iglesias whose sparkling defense and blazing speed is not enough to overcome his 1-for-12 with a BB and 2 Ks in the series. Kelly was one of the lone Tigers to figure out Gray in Game Two going 2-for-3 against him further encouraging the relegation of Iglesias to the bench. Can Gray get through this lineup with the same hot butter knife he carved them up with in Game Two? It remains to be seen.