In Detroit, on May 19th of this year, in the 7th inning of a fast moving game, it began to rain hard. It seemed almost certain that the game would be unplayable moving forward. Then, there was a collective “Huh?” as players took the field and the game continued. It did not continue for long, as play was suspended in the inning with the A’s clinging to a 5-3 lead. Instead of being able to call the game and bank it as a victory, it was now a suspended game, to be completed at a later date. That later date has finally come, as the Tigers are coming to Oakland to play a 3 (and a third) game series.
A bad season hasn’t gotten any better for Detroit over the long summer. The team has won only two games in its last ten, and at 41-97, there is a non-zero chance that the Tigers will leave Sunday with at least 100 losses on the year. Their offense, only having scored 509 runs this year, is far and away the worst in the sport, with no other American League team scoring fewer than 600 apart from the hapless White Sox, who have scored 593. The Tigers’ 781 runs allowed is only better than the Mariners, Rockies, and historically awful Orioles. It goes without saying that Detroit’s run differential is worse than any other team’s.
The Tigers are in this predicament because they are neck-deep in what looks to be a very long and painful rebuild. After years and years of dominance, and being one of the best teams of the last few decades to never win a World Series, the reliance on expensive free agents to buoy the team just wasn’t possible anymore. While many rebuilds recently have taken about 3-4 years for a team to completely turn around and contend, for the Tigers, it may take a little longer, as the team needs to be built up completely from scratch. It isn’t clear how many players on the team now are going to be part of the next window of contention.
While the Tigers don’t have much going for them right now, they are a professional team, with players who possess a good deal of talent, and to just assume the A’s will sweep the 3.3 games this weekend would be a mistake. Right now there are several players on the Tigers who are making the most of opportunities that wouldn’t be afforded to them on most other teams.
On offense, there are a few players who have been key over the last month or so of play. Victor Reyes got increased playing time following the departure of Nick Castellanos, and he has more than taken advantage. For the last month, Reyes has been slashing .373/.391/.518 with nine doubles, two triples, and a home run during that span. Backstop John Hicks has been providing a lot of thump for a lineup severely lacking in it, slugging .525 while hitting four home runs for the team. He has, however, struck out 23 times while walking zero times during that same time span. On the year, Hicks has 11 home runs in partial playing time. Veteran Miguel Cabrera, while sapped of his power this year, is still getting on base at an elite clip, reaching about 35% of the time he bats.
On the pitching staff, like on offense, while not a strength, there have been several players giving solid performances. Amongst starters and/or “bulk guys” out of the bullpen, Drew VerHagen and Jordan Zimmermann have been very strong. VerHagen has been striking out a batter per inning while possessing a WHIP of 0.90 and Zimmermann has walked just one while striking out 17 over his last four starts. In the bullpen proper, it’s been the heavily used lefty Nick Ramirez on fire of late, pitching to a 1.93 ERA over his last fourteen innings.
This is ultimately a series that the A’s need to win, given the precarious Wild Card situation. Currently, Fangraphs has all of the A’s, Indians, and Rays finishing the year with a 93-69 record, so things aren’t expected to get any less stressful over the next couple of weeks. Really though, the A’s should sweep this series, despite some of the positives in Detroit going on right now. At the very least, the A’s need to take the suspended game. It has been banked as a win in the minds of so many A’s fans all season long, it would be awfully embarrassing if the team dropped it.
Victor Reyes - CF
Willi Castro - SS
Miguel Cabrera - DH
Ronny Rodriguez - 2B
Jeimer Candelario - 1B
Dawel Lugo - 3B
Brandon Dixon - LF
Travis Demeritte - RF
Grayson Greiner - C
Suspended Game - TBD
Homer Bailey vs Spencer Turnbull
Chris Bassitt vs Jordan Zimmermann
Sean Manaea vs Daniel Norris
Suspended Game - Friday, September 6th at 5:15
Game #141 - Friday, September 6th at 7:07
Game #142 - Saturday, September 7th at 6:07
Game #143 - Sunday, September 8th at 1:07
All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA. Game #143 will be on MLB Network for those out of market.