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Athletics at Tigers: Farewell to Interdivisional Baseball 2017

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a long and trying season, more bad than good overall, but more good than bad of late. This week’s three game series against the Detroit Tigers marks the final time this season that the A’s will play a team outside of the division, with just about two weeks of regular season baseball remaining on the year. The A’s took their fair share of lumps while playing against AL West teams and NL East teams (going a total of 26-40 and 7-13, respectively), but have actually done quite well overall against the rest of the American League. The A’s finished the year with a 16-19 record against AL Eastern opponents, not great, but not bad considering Oakland’s overall record, and currently stand at an impressive 17-11 against AL Central opponents, with the team poised to improve on that record further.

  • Houston: 91-58
  • Anaheim: 76-73
  • Seattle: 74-76
  • Texas: 73-76
  • Oakland: 66-83

The Tigers are quite the common opponent for the A’s when summer turns to fall, but usually as a playoff foe, and those series usually end in crushing disappointment. Since the A’s (and the Tigers, for that matter) are unfortunately missing the playoffs by a wide margin this year, they will have to have their near-annual Fall Series against the Tigers early. After years and years of using money to try and overcome a closing window of competitiveness, the tragic passing of Mike Ilitch signalled for a change in how the Tigers were going to operate as a big league team. With the team unable to keep up with Cleveland, Kansas City, and, surprisingly, Minnesota this season, the Tigers finally opted to sell and rebuild, the aging stars on the squad simply not able to carry the team anymore.

The July trade deadline saw J.D. Martinez, Alex Avila, and more depart from Detroit, and the August trade deadline saw the ends of Justin Verlander and Justin Upton’s tenure in a Tigers uniform. The Tigers are no longer clinging to the past, but building towards a long and successful future. Guys like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler are still around and still hitting for some impressive pop, and can hurt any pitcher at any time, but are all losing a fight against age and time, and their bat speeds and ability to hit for high averages is all but finished. While they can still provide valuable guidance and insight, Detroit’s run producing is in the hands of its budding young stars. Jeimer Candelario has done nothing but hit since his callup in early September, reaching base in nearly half of his at bats and walking more than striking out. Nick Castellanos has settled into his starting role in a big way, and has been the Tigers’ most consistent hitter on the year (who is still on the team, anyways), OPS-ing .800, but currently in the midst of a hot streak that has witnessed his power surge and give him an OPS of 1.066 over the last month. Young starter Matt Boyd, who the A’s will be missing in this series, was a better defensive alignment away from throwing a no-hitter in his most recent start and looks to have the makings of a future mid-rotation stud.

The Matchups

Monday, September 18th at 4:10 - Jharel Cotton vs Buck Farmer

Tuesday, September 19th at 4:10 - Daniel Gossett vs Chad Bell

Wednesday, September 20th at 10:10 - Daniel Mengden vs Anibal Sanchez

How the A’s Win the Series

Young pitchers wearing down over the long season is always a concern, and most assuredly is on the minds of trainers and coaches on both teams. But at the very least, while the A’s lineup has steadily improved over the season as seat-warming veterans gave way to upstart rookies, and has actually been one of the better offenses in all of baseball since the All Star Break, the Tigers intentionally neutered their lineup as a part of the team’s sell off, and Detroit has had an awful lot of trouble scoring runs of late. There is not a better lineup for a young pitcher to go right after with gusto than the Tigers, at this late stage of the season, especially when considering the A’s offense will, more than likely, hopefully, back up their pitchers by putting some crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.

The one danger the offense will have to worry about will be avoiding striking out too many times, which has been the MO all season long. But at the very least the A’s will have the DH again, now that they escaped their final NL-park destination, and so the lineup will be at full strength once more.