In a surprising move, Bob Melvin has announced Oakland's ALDS pitching rotation as follows: Bartolo Colon for Game 1, Sonny Gray for Game 2, Jarrod Parker for Game 3, and Dan Straily for Game 4, with Colon ready for the decisive Game 5 at the Coliseum if it ends up being necessary.
A.J. Griffin's nagging right ankle injury, which was only made known to the public on Sunday, has apparently kept him out of the playoff rotation, as it seemed like he had beaten out Straily for the fourth spot in the A's playoff rotation. And now word is surfacing that right ankle soreness isn't his only health issue:
Melvin says Griffin has been dealing with elbow tendinitis that has been getting worse so he was not option for this round. Athletics&src=hash">#Athletics
Melvin says Griffin has been dealing with elbow tendinitis that has been getting worse so he was not option for this round. Athletics&src=hash">#Athletics— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) October 1, 2013
Losing Griffin is rough, but I won't pretend that I wasn't very, very apprehensive about watching him go up against two of the league's best power hitters — Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder — at hitter-friendly Comerica Park. Straily can also be susceptible to the long ball, but not to the degree Griffin has been. Even though I'd be more comfortable with Griffin at the Coliseum, I like Straily getting the start in Detroit.
Still, Griffin's injury has nothing to do with Bob Melvin's decision to throw Gray, a rookie, in Game 2 while saving Jarrod Parker for Game 3. One potential factor is that Gray performs better at home than he does on the road; Parker does too, but the margin is slightly larger for Gray. The sample size is probably too small for it to mean much, but Parker's home vs. road wOBA is .289 vs. .330, for a difference of .041. Gray sports home and road numbers of .236 and .288, respectively, good for a .052 margin.
I'd guess that the single biggest factor leading to the decision to flip Parker and Gray is the fact that Parker has experience pitching in the playoffs at Comerica Park. Last year, he went 6.1 innings in ALDS Game 1 in Detroit, allowing seven hits and three runs, two of which were earned. Overall, he did a good job keeping the A's in the game against a dominant Justin Verlander, and seemed to be unfazed by hostile playoff crowd and the cold. I was there — it was really, really cold.
So instead of having to deal with a road playoff start, Gray will get his first taste of big league postseason action at home, on a Saturday night, in front of more than 49,000 at the O.Co. It's worth noting that this isn't his first time pitching on a national stage — though it's certainly not as big a spectacle as the MLB playoffs, Gray pitched for Vanderbilt on national television in the 2011 College World Series. He didn't perform particularly well, but at least he's been there.
This means that the pitching matchups for the series are now as follows:
Game 1: Bartolo Colon vs. Max Scherzer
Game 2: Sonny Gray vs. Justin Verlander
Game 3: Jarrod Parker vs. Anibal Sanchez
Game 4, if necessary: Dan Straily vs. Doug Fister
Game 5, if necessary: Bartolo Colon vs. Max Scherzer
The rest of the playoff roster is pretty much what it was expected to be:
The most notable exclusion is obviously Nate Freiman, who spent the entire regular season on the 25-man roster. But Freiman had a pretty simple role — his job was to be offensively productive against left-handed pitchers in the early and middle innings of a game before he'd inevitably get pulled for defense. Barton and Moss are both significantly better defenders than Freiman, and the Tigers are starting four right-handed pitchers, eliminating his role entirely. I'm not sure if the A's would bring him back for a potential ALCS, either, because it would probably mean leaving off Kurt Suzuki, and Barton's reverse splits and vastly superior defense might make him a more productive player, overall, against lefties.
Despite soreness in his right shoulder, Cespedes obviously expects to be ready to go:
Cespedes is planning to play in the OF "even if I have to throw left-handed." Not sure Bob Melvin will see it that way.
Cespedes is planning to play in the OF "even if I have to throw left-handed." Not sure Bob Melvin will see it that way.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) October 1, 2013
It's finally happening — the ALDS is getting more and more real. Game times and rosters are set, Game 1 is entirely sold out and Game 2 has extremely limited ticket availability, and the playoffs start tonight. This should be an unbelievable series that really could go dramatically any either direction. I'm counting down the seconds.