Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander can eliminate the Oakland A’s for a second straight year, as both teams clash in the deciding Game Five of the American League Division Series on Thursday night at O.co Coliseum.
Verlander struck out 11 Oakland batters en route to a complete game shutout in Game Five of last year’s ALDS, a performance that sparked Detroit’s second trip to the World Series in seven seasons.
Though he slipped to a 13-12 record in the regular season, Verlander looked in top form in Game Two, scattering four hits over seven innings with 11 strike outs. Unfortunately, the A’s pulled out the 1-0 victory after relievers Al Albuquerque and Rick Porcello melted in the ninth.
Originally, 21-game winner Max Scherzer was supposed to take the mound for the Tigers, but his clutch relief work in the seventh and eighth inning of Tuesday night’s 8-6 victory saved Detroit’s season and forced the series finale.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin hasn’t named his starter yet, and his indecision doesn't lack merit. While rookie Sonny Gray thrived in his one start, A’s starters Bartolo Colon and Dan Straily have posted a 4.50 earned-run average, while Jarrod Parker’s ERA is 5.40.
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The strongest case could be made for the rookie Gray, who won Game Two with eight shutout innings in his first career postseason start, while Colon was tagged for 10 hits in the 3-2 Game One loss. However, Colon anchored Oakland’s staff this season, totaling a team-high 18 wins and 2.65 ERA, both the second best in the AL in both categories.
Detroit managed to score their series-best eight runs despite another quiet night from the heart of the lineup. Left fielder Johnny Peralta tallied three RBI and second baseman Omar Infante knocked in another two runs, but Miguel Cabrera went 1-for-4 on 11 pitches taken. Cabrera’s now hitting 4-for-16 with one RBI, no walks and one strikeout in four games. He’s making contact, but the groin and abdomen injury that plagued his September could still be lingering.
Other than two runs scored, first baseman Prince Fielder has also been largely ineffective, but designated hitter Victor Martinez went 3-for-4 with two runs in Game Four. He’s now tops on the Tigers with six hits, while Peralta has five RBI for a team that ranked second in runs, on-base and slugging percentage during the regular season.
Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes have powered the A’s offense in the first four games. Both have seven hits a combined six RBI, 24 total bases, and seven runs. Meanwhile, the A’s have totaled five home runs to Detroit’s two.
The game begins at 8:07 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by TBS, or watch their live online stream at the channel’s official site here.
Betting Odds: Detroit favored by 1.5 runs.
Over/Under: 7 runs
Prediction: Oakland 2, Detroit 1