Following a Game 1 that was disappointing, both in terms of process and outcome, A's fans are looking for reasons to be optimistic and the stat-gods have obliged. The Game 1 winner has gone on to win the ALCS 21 of 36 times. However, since the ALCS became a best-of-seven gig, the Game 1 winner has only won 10 of 20--which means that in the best-of-five format, a win in Game 1 meant a series win 11 of 16 times. So whereas the Tigers might be a 69% favorite right now in a 5-game series, and whereas the Twins had little time to right the ship after Santana was outdueled a week ago, this is a 7-game series and there's a lot of baseball left to play.
And the A's really need a win tonight. The Tigers came to Oakland looking for at least a split and now can do no worse despite starting the series with arguably their worst pitching matchup. Now the A's are feeling the same pressure the Twins felt in Game 2 of the ALDS, and that is the pressure not to have to go on the road having gone winless at home. Esteban Loaiza, with great career numbers against the Tigers, just not this season, tangles paws with the flame-throwing Justin Verlander, whose tired arm may render him only able to hit 98MPH on the radar gun.
Something to watch for: The last couple times I saw Verlander pitch, which was after he rested a "tired arm", he seemed reluctant to use his fastball, throwing a lot of changeups in fastball counts. If Verlander does not trust his fastball, the A's could light him up. If he establishes the fastball and works off of it, the A's could be overmatched and could wind up highly dependent on an ELo-gem.
The starting lineups: