The A’s have had a tough time against the Detroit Tigers over the past few years. This became de ja vu as the Green and Gold dropped the first two games of the ALDS in Detroit forcing a sweep of the rest of the series at home as the only way to advance to the ALCS. Tigers ace Justin Verlander was back to his dominant self in Game 1 and silenced the A’s bats. Game 2 saw sloppy defense and an ineffective bullpen cause the A’s to let a golden opportunity to capture a split on the road and head to back to the Coliseum only needing to win two out of the three rather than a sweep to slip. Now the A’s turn to Brett Anderson (presuming he is healthy) to try and continue the series another day. What do the A’s need to do to win the next three? Here are the solutions.
1. Play better defense. Three of the Tigers eight runs in this series have been unearned. The biggest defensive blunder however, came off a wild pitch by Ryan Cook in the bottom of the eighth. Against Alex Avila with two outs and runners on second and third Ryan Cook started off Avila with a 97mph fastball. Unfortunately for Cook he buried it in the dirt. This was made more unfortunate when George Kottaras tried to backhand the ball rather than drop to his knees and take the ball off his chest protector. This led to the ball getting by Kottaras and going to the wall allowing Don Kelly to score and tie the game for the Tigers.
2. Better bullpen pitching. A’s relievers gave up 4 runs (some unearned) in Game 2 leading to the loss. While Pat Neshek heroically came through in Game 1 and Jerry Blevins was solid, the backbone of the bullpen was anything but in Game 2. Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and the pitcher eventually charged with the loss Grant Balfour all pitched poorly. The A’s will need the bullpen to be lights out the rest of this series if they have any chance of continuing on.
3. Better manufacturing of runs. The A’s have had a runner on in 14 of the 18 possible innings so far. This has led to a total of only 7 runs. If the A’s plan to win the next three games they will need to produce when they have runners on, and especially in scoring position. The Tigers have mastered this so far manufacturing most of their runs via sac bunts and sac fly’s. This can be more easily attained if players like Coco Crisp, Cliff Pennington, and Yoenis Céspedes steal bases and get in scoring position more frequently than they are now. An example would be the top of the eighth inning in Game 2 when Céspedes stole second and third and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Fundamental baseball is crucial this time of year.
4. And finally, find the mojo left at the Coliseum. The last six games of the season were magical for the A’s at home and if they can find that mojo again there is no doubt this team can sweep the Tigers. The Coliseum will be rocking Tuesday night and that should help put the A’s players right back at home (pun intended).
The A’s need to win 3 games in a row against one of the best teams in baseball in order to advance to the ALCS. They need to play better defense, the bullpen needs to channel their regular season success, they need to manufacture more runs, and they need to find the magic that led them to the AL West crown. The A’s are handing the ball to Brett Anderson to force a Game 4. It all begins Tuesday night at the Coliseum.