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After a 162 game regular season, the REAL season starts up this weekend for Major League Baseball. With Wild Card games slated for Friday evening & night, the Division Series in both the American League and National League starts up on Saturday. For the Detroit Tigers, they open up on Saturday evening against an upstart Oakland Athletics team that was predicted to win all of 70 games this season. The A’s needed all 162 games to finally knock the Texas Rangers from the top of the AL West. This years A’s have been dubbed “Moneyball 2″, referencing the popular 2011 blockbuster starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in which Pitt stars as Oakland GM Billy Beane, and how he changed the baseball world when he started using statistics to rank players. Detroit will need to find a way to put stats aside, and win this best-of-5 series to advance to the ALCS for the 2nd year in a row. Here is your American League Division Series preview:
How They Got Here:
Detroit: The Tigers have advanced to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the 1930′s. After the Chicago White Sox lead the division almost all season, Detroit went 8-2 in the last 10, while Chicago went 4-6. The Tigers finished 88-74. They are winners of the American League’s Central Division.
Oakland: After being 13 games back in June, the Oakland A’s are the hottest team in baseball. They have the best record in the league since July 1st, and are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Oakland swept then-division leading Texas in the season’s final series. They also ended the year on an 8-2 run. The A’s are winners of the American League’s West Division.
Detroit and Oakland played a total of 7 times during the regular season, with the Tigers winning the series 4 games to 3. These two teams played just a few weeks ago at Comerica Park (Sept 18-20) with Detroit winning the first two games by a combined score of 18-4. Oakland avoided the sweep with a 12-4 win in the series finale.
The Tigers Will Win If…
Their bats continue to stay hot at key moments. Funny how even with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera along with guys like Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson, Detroit’s main worry is scoring runs. It’s been a problem for them all season, really. Prince and Cabrera would find a way to get on base, then end up being stranded because the middle and end of the lineup couldn’t get them in. Delmon Young, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta will be key players in ensuring Detroit can put runs on the board against Oakland’s young pitching staff.
The Athletics Will Win If…
They get timely hitting, and their pitching stays hot. Detroit clearly has the offensive advantage in this series, but if Oakland can get timely hitting like they did in the final series against the Rangers… look out! They don’t have a hitter batting above .300 but they can still be dangerous. Josh Reddick finished the year with 32 home runs (2 of which came against Detroit) and also boasts a .357 average versus the Tigers. Oakland will also need their young pitching staff to continue to do what it has done all year…get batters out.
Game 1: Oakland @ Detroit — Saturday October 6th at 6:00pm on TBS (Justin Verlander vs. TBA)
Game 2: Oakland @ Detroit — Sunday October 7th at TBD on TBS
Game 3: Detroit @ Oakland — Tuesday October 9th at TBD on TBS
*Game 4: Detroit @ Oakland — Wednesday October 10th at TBD on TBS
*Game 5: Detroit @ Oakland — Thursday October 11th at TBD on TBS
* If Necessary
The difference in this series could come down to home-field advantage. The Tigers won 50 games this season at Comerica Park, and even though they had a worse record than Oakland, they still get to start the ALDS at the friendly confines of Comerica Park. This could play a major factor in the outcome of this series.
Both teams come into the playoffs scorching hot. For the last month or so, Detroit has been riding the momentum of Miguel Cabrera’s chase for the Triple Crown. Now that he’s won it, the team can finally focus solely on winning the championship that it was predicted to win in the beginning of the year. Cabrera even said publicly that he’s glad all the attention on him is over. Everyone thought the Tigers would be in this position at the start of spring training. They had some bumps along the road, and it wasn’t easy, but nevertheless they made it to the playoffs. Capping the year with a World Series title would be the cherry on top after the great seasons both Cabrera and Justin Verlander had.
As I stated earlier, Oakland is the hottest team in baseball, and absolutely nobody thought they would be here. Bob Melvin is my choice for AL Manager of the Year (sorry, Buck Showalter). The pressure to win this series is all on the Tigers, because people expect them to advance to the World Series. Oakland is the underdog (even though they have 7 more wins than Detroit) and they’ll essentially be playing worry-free baseball. The team is young and energetic, but is also new to the playoff scene, while Detroit has been here before. The A’s will look to play spoiler in the opening round.
On paper, Detroit should win this series handily. But games in October aren’t played on paper. Both teams are playing well, which is why I think this series could go to 4 or even 5 games. Detroit’s experience, combined with home-field advantage will reign superior though, and I have Detroit winning this series in 4 games.
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October baseball is here…LET’S GO TIGERS!!!