After yesterday's convincing victory against Detroit, it would be prudent to think that the A's really do have two chances to take the ALDS and advance to the LCS for the first time since 2006. After all, that's what the numbers say.
If you thought that, however, you'd be wrong. As big as Sonny Gray's start was on Saturday to turn the series in the A's direction, Dan Straily's start today is bigger. Win, and the A's can wipe the stench of Tiger Balm and greasy, cheap pizza from their brow that they've been wearing since last year. Lose, and it's a trip back to Oakland to face likely Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, to be backed up out of the bullpen by Justin Verlander. And no one really wants to even think about that.
Given that the A's have outlasted Verlander, and knocked around Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister would seem like an easy assignment. And there is ample evidence for that. Over 12 career starts against A's teams, he has allowed a 104 OPS+ to A's hitters. On the other hand, he's also allowed only 3 HR during that time, gotten the A's to ground into 8 double plays, and is good for a 3.17 ERA over that span. Fister is an excellent pitcher; he may not have the pedigree of Scherzer and Verlander, nor the contemporary stats of Sanchez, but he is more than capable of frustrating a lineup of aggressive hitters.
Dan Straily is a capable pitcher, too. Over 27 starts this year, he managed to lead AL rookie starts in WAR. Of course, that's mostly because he made more starts than any other AL rookie, but at the end of the day, that does count for something. He finished with an HR/9 under 1, and a respectable K% of 19.4. But he also allowed a higher wOBA in the second half, despite a strong September showing, and seems to never make it through 6 innings.
The point is that this Game 4 is up for grabs. Both teams have reasons to struggle, and both teams have reasons to blow the opposing pitcher out of the water. But, only one team has a likely Cy Young winner waiting to take the ball in Game 5, and one who already dominated one game in this series. This is basically a Game 5 for the A's, and I hope they play like it.
Gametime is at 2:05 PM PST. We will, of course, be hosting the game thread. You can use this thread to burn off energy, if you'd like.