The Detroit Tigers hope to reach to their second straight American League Championship series Wednesday night by closing out the Oakland Athletics Wednesday night at O.co Coliseum.
After dropping the first two games, Oakland squeaked out a 2-0 victory Tuesday with a six-inning, two hit and no earned runs performance by lefty Brett Anderson, and three scoreless innings from the bullpen led by closer Grant Balfour.
It was a seminal defensive performance for the A’s, highlighted by a leaping, warning-track catch from center fielder Coco Crisp, robbing Tiger first baseman Prince Fielder of a home run in the second inning with score at 1-0.
Crisp made up for his botched basket catch in Game Two that cost the Athletics their 2-1 lead and eventually the game.
The A’s start yet another rookie pitcher Wednesday in A.J. Griffin. In 15 starts in the regular season, the 24-year-old went 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA, but suffered his worst outing of the year against the Tigers on Sept. 18. Detroit won 12-2 and tagged Griffin for five earned runs and three home runs.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland will turn to a more experienced starter in 28-year-old Max Scherzer.
Making his fourth career postseason start, Scherzer battled through a shoulder injury in the final month of the regular season and posted career highs in wins and strikeouts. He went 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA and was second in the majors in strikeouts with 231.
Detroit’s offense is sorely missing Fielder, who has struggled during the series going 1-12 with no RBIs.
Now in his third trip to the postseason, Fielder has never performed well on baseball’s biggest stage. In 18 games, he has a .172 average with four home runs and eight RBIs.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has hit .333 with two doubles, but is 0-2 with runners in scoring position in the first three games.
Prediction: Assuming Scherzer is healthy, the Tigers should contain Oakland’s offense, but need Fielder and Cabrera to breakout and lead Detroit's bats in order to move on to the next round. Much like they did in the second half of the season, Oakland will find a way to force a pivotal Game Five.
Predicted Score: Oakland 7, Detroit 4