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Game Thread #20: A's at Tigers

Kendall Graveman and the Athletics look to weather the storm and rebound against the Tigers in Motown, after dropping two of three games in Toronto. Today's game begins at 4:10 PM PDT.

After an impressive start against the Yankees on Wednesday, Kendall Graveman looks to bury the Tigers in the series opener.
After an impressive start against the Yankees on Wednesday, Kendall Graveman looks to bury the Tigers in the series opener.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of heavy rain and thunderstorms, your 2016 Oakland Athletics will arrive to Detroit, Michigan surrounded by partly-cloudy skies -- as they take on Jordan Zimmermann and the Tigers at Comerica Park, beginning at 4:10 PM PDT. At this moment, it appears that today's series opener will start on time; so you can catch the game on CSN California, or simply tune-in to the radio broadcast on 95.7 The Game.

There's an increased chance of rain around 9 PM EST; so if Kendall Graveman can duplicate his one-run performance with eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees last Wednesday, it might be enough to get his ball club the "W" and rightfully so -- rest an overly-taxed bullpen which has tossed 65 1/3 frames over a 19-game span.

Kendall Graveman (1-1, 2.04 ERA):

In New York, Graveman buckled down and managed to escape a first-inning bases-loaded jam on 29 pitches. Even though the circumstances weren't ideal, the 25-year-old from Alexander City, Alabama realized that the situation could have been worse -- and seemingly, mowed down a lefty-heavy Yankees lineup to receive his first win since July 4, 2015 when the right-hander shutout the Seattle Mariners at the Coliseum.

"You never want to throw 30 pitches in an inning, but when you do, if you can throw up a zero somehow you definitely go away from it with positive thinking," said Graveman, who snapped a six-game losing streak dating back to last year. "Even if it is in the first, you have to continue to make meaningful pitches, and every pitch has to have intent, so to get out of that inning the way we did was big and gave me momentum going forward."

Despite surrendering a solo-shot to Didi Gregorius in the second inning, the 2013 8th round-pick effectively mixed his pitches on both sides of the plate, and had the utmost confidence that his offense would come through when the situation presented itself.

"You gotta think to yourself, solo home runs aren't going to beat you," Graveman said. "I know our offense is going to turn it around, and then we score, put up some runs. That turned things around, and then I was able to put together some quick outs."

Jordan Zimmermann (3-0, 0.00 ERA):

While it's crucial to keep a positive attitude on the mound and in the batter's box, the A's might have their work cut out for them -- when Zimmermann (3-0, 0.00 ERA) gets the start for the Tigers. In 19 innings pitched, the 29-year-old hasn't surrendered a single run to the opposition and possess a decent 15:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2016. If these statistics aren't impressive enough, he is the first pitcher in Detroit Tigers history to start a season with three straight appearances of six or more scoreless frames.

However, it's almost impossible for one person to carry a ball club -- especially when he only gets to toe-the-rubber every five days. The Tigers last win was with Zimmermann on the mound; since then, Detroit has dropped four-straight games to the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

According to Catherine Slonksnis over at Bless You Boys, the Motown Kitties are going to need all of the prayers you can give them because it's reported that the Tigers can't hit, can't pitch, and can't figure out what's wrong. That's a problem.

At this early-stage in the season, I would have to agree with her. The vibe in Detroit's clubhouse resembles that of your 2015 Oakland Athletics -- who seemingly finished last in the American League Central a year ago, except things haven't turned around for Brad Ausmus' squad, as demonstrated by several lack-luster performances on the mound from Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander. Miguel Cabrera is conceivably struggling at the dish; along with newly-acquired outfield Justin Upton -- who's racking up K's like there's no tomorrow, and that might be the case if the Tigers can't find a way to turn things around immediately.

"The clubhouse opened roughly 15 minutes after the game ended, an abnormality compared to the usual five or so delay, and it was telling. Something needs to be done. The bullpen has been used far too often. The relievers need some relief and right now the starting rotation don't appear to be the ones offering it, least of all, Sanchez."

Without further ado, here are the starting lineups:

Today's Lineups

Billy Burns - CF Jose Iglesias - SS
Chris Coghlan - 3B Justin Upton - LF
Josh Reddick - RF Miguel Cabrera - 1B
Jed Lowrie - 2B Victor Martinez - DH
Stephen Vogt - C J.D. Martinez - RF
Coco Crisp - LF Nick Castellanos - 3B
Khris Davis - DH Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C
Yonder Alonso - 1B Tyler Collins - CF
Marcus Semien - SS Mike Aviles - 2B
Kendall Graveman - RHP Jordan Zimmermann - RHP

Last minute news:

Mike Aviles will take over at second base for Detroit and bat ninth.

This morning, the A's sent Eric Surkamp to Triple-A Nashville and called up reliever Andrew Triggs to join their bullpen. Temporarily, Oakland has eight members in their relief corps' -- and as a result, will need a starting pitcher to join the ball club on Friday. The two front-runners at this point are right-hander Jesse Hahn, or the green and gold's top-pitching prospect Sean Manaea.

Now it's time to... PLAY BALL!