The A's kick off a series tonight with the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers ride into town with Babe Shelton looking at a monster year. Shelton already has nine home runs and is the fastest in American League history to reach that mark. Since opening the season 5-0, the Tigers have only won two of their last eight. They've become the Tigers once again.
The opener features a shaky Esteban Loaiza against Justin Verlander. Loaiza has been smacked around in his first two outings. He is sporting an 11.42 ERA and an 0-2 record. The worst part is that he has one of the worst walk/strikeout ratios in all of baseball right now with seven walks and only one strikeout over 8 2/3 innings. He's also give up three home runs already. I still think he's got some kind of health problem that he isn't disclosing. The game against Canada he pitched, he had his 90-91 fastball consistently. But he hasn't shown it in any of the A's games yet. If he struggles again tonight, I would not be surprised if Loaiza heads to the DL and the A's call up Chad Gaudin from Sacramento. I don't have any inside information, but the A's can't afford to have a starting pitcher get shelled repeatedly as Loaiza has been.
The Tigers send Justin Verlander to the mound with a 1-1 record and a 6.52 ERA. But that is deceiving because Verlander was stellar in one start against Texas in Texas and then got bombed by the White Sox his next time out. Knowing how these things go for the A's (see Millwood, Kevin for reference), I'm guessing Verlander pitches like his start against the Rangers.
The second game on Wednesday at 7:05 features perennial Athletic/Cameraman Killer Kenny Rogers. I don't need to tell anyone here how tough Rogers has killed the A's at the Coliseum over his career. The only other park that he has a lower ERA over the last three years is Comerica Park (with more than two starts). He won three games last year at the Coliseum and holds a 23-4 career mark at the concrete bowl. The A's hit only .201 against Rogers last year. Blanton has never faced Detroit, but I would imagine he's eager to get back on the mound after his last start in which he allowed seven runs over six innings.
Can I tell you how happy I am that Kenny Rogers is out of the A's division? I wish the A's missed his start. If I were the A's, I would sit Chavez down on Wednesday and give Antonio Perez a start. Chavez struggles mightily against Rogers and the last thing he needs to do is have someone start him down that slippery slope to a slump.
The Thursday day game starts at 12:35 p.m. and features former A's prospect Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman usually pitches well against the A's also, seeming to pump himself up to try and beat the team that traded him. The A's send Barry Zito to the mound and Zito is the subject of my most recent FSN Bay Area column. Chances are that Zito could right his ship against the Tigers. He is 7-5 in his career against the Tigers, but he sports a 2.79 ERA. Of course to beat Bonderman, that's probably what he'll need.
This series is important to get the A's feeling right before their big matchup with the Angels later this week. I personally don't like the matchups (with Rogers and Bonderman as well as the wild card in Verlander), but that's the beauty of it all. It's played on the field, not on paper.