Everyone who roots for the Oakland Athletics is haunted by the image of Justin Verlander standing victorious atop the mound in the O.co Coliseum after eliminating the A’s in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS. Verlander was at his absolute best that night, and the Athletics simply didn’t stand a chance. The Tigers proceeded on to the ALCS, and then the World Series where Verlander was finally proven to be human by the San Francisco Giants and Pablo Sandoval. Ever since then it has seemed that Verlander isn’t the same pitcher. While the psychological impact of that game has long since faded, the physical impact of Verlander’s work load has not. This year Verlander has been rather pedestrian, and his fastball doesn’t have the same life we’re accustomed to seeing. A pitcher simply can’t throw as many innings as Verlander has without any ramifications down the line.
The Athletics demonstrated this instantly in the top of the first inning. Coco Crisp stood strong in the box and worked the count against Verlander, ultimately drawing a walk. Josh Donaldson was slotted in the two spot in today’s lineup, and paid immediate dividends with a solid single to right field. A wild pitch would move them into scoring position, and Jed Lowrie would drive them both in with a well placed “double” on a pop fly that fell in just fair in right field. The A’s would fail to add on, and the Tigers would answer back.
Tommy Milone was making his first start in nine days, and he definitely showed his share of mound rust. He issued two walks and allowed a single to Torii Hunter to load the bases with nobody out and Prince Fielder coming to bat. Fielder would smack a line drive into right center field to tie the game at two. The Tigers would take the lead on an error by Alberto Callaspo that allowed Miguel Cabrera to score. Milone would escape further damage, and would settle down nicely in the final four innings.
The A’s would tie the game in the third inning on an RBI double by Yoenis Cespedes. They would retake the lead in the top of the fifth inning on Brandon Moss‘ 22nd home run of the season, an impressive shot to the opposite field to give the A’s a 5-3 lead. They would tack on another run in the top of the 6th on a home run from Seth Smith, his seventh on the season before the rain washed out the rest of the game. They would wait out an 1 hour and 20 minute rain delay before calling the game.
Tommy Milone would be credited with a complete game, he allowed just those three runs (only two earned) on three hits, and three strikeouts with two walks. He reaches double digit wins for the second straight season, and may have bought himself more time in the rotation once Bartolo Colon returns on Thursday.
The A’s have guaranteed themselves a split in this four game series in Detroit, something I certainly didn’t expect to see this week. They are now in prime position to try and steal this series and ensure a winning road trip. The A’s win and losses by the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, and Baltimore Orioles improve their wild card standing as they move to within a 1/2 game of the Rays, and now have a three game lead over the Indians and lead the Orioles by 3 1/2 games. As of this writing the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners are deadlocked in a 3-3 tie heading to extra innings, so the A’s are two games behind the Rangers for now.