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This is it, A's fans. For the second time in as many weeks, the A's have put their hopes into a final 27 outs.
Of course, it doesn't get any easier. Down 3-1 last night headed to the bottom of the 9th, the A's used their best heroics to save their season against closer Jose Valverde. Tonight, the A's will bring those same hot bats into a death battle against the reigning Cy Young and MVP award winner, Justin Verlander. As seen in Game 1, he is practically a zombie out there. He starts in the first few innings throwing an easy 93-94 MPH and mixing an offspeed pitch in there when he has to. Later in the game, he starts amping up the velocity to 99-101 MPH and really throwing the K's down.
If there is any team right now who can face down this challenge, it's the A's. Despite showing their propensity to K early in the game last night, the A's fought back to get better PAs against Max Scherzer and put his pitch count into an area where Jim Leyland couldn't afford to leave him in. They will have to do the same tonight, except Verlander is likely to have a very high pitch count. At least, if I'm Jim Leyland, I'm fully onboard with Verlander throwing 135 pitches or more tonight. The A's, meanwhile, will try to get to the Detroit bullpen as early as possible. Despite their advantage in starting pitching, if any one thing stands out in the bullpen it's the dropoff between bullpens. The A's have Doolitte, Cook, and Balfour each coming in to throw strikes at 95 MPH+. Detroit's guys just don't seem to be able to find the plate.
So, the gameplan for today is to at least keep the game close and make it a bullpen battle. Of course, the A's starter is equally capable in his own right. Jarrod Parker has pitched like an ace for the past month, and if he can replicate his Game 1 start, the A's will be just fine. A few well-placed hits were the difference then, and I don't expect that kind of BABIP luck to continue for Detroit.
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling good about this game. It seems the A's are unstoppable right now, and it is Detroit, with their inflated contracts and expectations, who have the pressure on them today. The A's, as they have done all season and especially down the stretch, continue to play like they have nothing to lose. Ideally, the A's build an early lead and it is an easy cruise to another improbable victory. Or it could be another sensational walkoff and another Fosse Scream. At any rate, we will all be here, living and dying on every pitch.
The lineups for today, courtesy of baseballpress.com. Notice that Seth Smith and Brandon Moss have been flip-flopped in the order. Considering how Moss has looked lately, I can't say I disagree with this move. Naturally, Moss will likely have several big hits today.
:30pm Tigers (J. Verlander - R) @ Athletics (J. Parker - R)
Gametime Forecast: 58°F • Cloudy • 15%PoP
One more time, with feeling: LET'S GO OAK-LAND