A look at the best-of-five American League division series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Friday, at Oakland (9:37 p.m.); Game 2, Saturday, at Oakland (9:07 p.m.); Game 3, Monday, Oct. 7, at Detroit (TBA); x-Game 4, Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Detroit (TBA); x-Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 10, at Oakland (TBA). (All games on TBS or MLB Network).
Season Series: Athletics won 4-3.
Tigers: CF Austin Jackson (.272, 12 HRs, 49 RBIs), RF Torii Hunter (.304, 17, 84), 3B Miguel Cabrera (MLB-leading .348, 44, 137), 1B Prince Fielder (.279, 25, 106), DH Victor Martinez (.301, 14, 83), LF Jhonny Peralta (.303, 11, 55), 2B Omar Infante (.318, 10, 51), C Alex Avila (.227, 11, 47), SS Jose Iglesias (.303, 3, 29 with Boston and Detroit).
Athletics: CF Coco Crisp (.261, 22, 66, 21 SBs), 3B Josh Donaldson (.301, 24, 93, 37 2Bs), SS Jed Lowrie (.290, 15, 75, 45 2Bs), DH or LF Brandon Moss (.256, 30, 87), LF or DH Yoenis Cespedes (.240, 26, 80), RF Josh Reddick (.226, 12, 56), C Stephen Vogt (.252, 4, 16) or Derek Norris (.246, 9, 30), 1B Daric Barton (.269, 3, 16), 2B Eric Sogard (.266, 2, 35).
Tigers: RH Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90, 240 Ks), RH Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA), RH Anibal Sanchez (14-8, AL-best 2.57), RH Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67).
Athletics: RH Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65, 4.03 K/BB ratio), RH Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67), RH Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.97, 25 HRs allowed), RH Dan Straily (10-8, 3.96, 124 Ks).
Tigers: RH Joaquin Benoit (4-1, 2.01, 24/26 saves), LH Drew Smyly (6-0, 2.37), RH Jose Veras (0-5, 3.02, 21/25 saves with Houston and Detroit), RH Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.32, 32 appearances, 29 starts), RH Al Alburquerque (4-3, 4.59, 70 Ks, 34 BBs in 49 innings), LH Darin Downs (0-2, 4.84).
Athletics: RH Grant Balfour (1-3, 2.59, 38/41 saves, 10.3 K/9), RH Ryan Cook (6-4, 2.54, 2 saves), LH Sean Doolittle (5-5, 3.13, 2 saves, .188 BA vs LH), LF Brett Anderson (1-4, 6.04, 3 saves), LH Jerry Blevins (5-0, 3.15), RH Dan Otero (2-0, 1.38). RH Jesse Chavez (2-4, 3.92).
This is a rematch of last year's division series won by the Tigers in five games behind Verlander's four-hit, 11-strikeout gem in a 6-0 victory in the deciding game. ... Tigers took two of three in Oakland in April, and A's took three out of four in Detroit in late August. ... Oakland scored 34 runs in that second series, including six in the final game against Scherzer. Detroit rallied with four runs in the ninth off Balfour to win that one 7-6 on Hunter's game-ending, three-run homer. ... A's manager Bob Melvin relies heavily on platoons to get his hitters the most advantageous matchups. But that won't be as crucial against a Tigers team that has only righty starters. That will keep Moss in the middle of the lineup each game. He had 4 HRs and 10 RBIs vs. Tigers this season and was tied for sixth in the majors with 26 HRs off RHP. ... INF Alberto Callaspo and OF Chris Young will likely be relegated to bench duty with no lefty starters. ... Lowrie (.385, 5 2Bs) and Donaldson (.357) hit Tigers pitching well this season. ... Parker got rocked in his only start vs. Tigers, allowing eight runs in 3 1-3 innings. ... Peralta was suspended 50 games as part of baseball's Biogenesis drug investigation, and Detroit traded for Iglesias to play SS. Now that Peralta is back, he could split time in LF with Andy Dirks. ... Although the A's are a different team than the strikeout-prone bunch that lost to Detroit in the division series last season, the Tigers bring the same powerful pitching to the playoffs. Detroit pitchers led the majors with a record 1,428 strikeouts.
Tigers: Detroit (93-69) won the AL Central by one game over Cleveland, but that slim margin was deceiving. The Tigers were in control from mid-August on. ... Martinez hit .361 after the All-Star break and Fielder batted .337 in September. ... The bullpen was a work in progress early, but Benoit has performed well as the closer, and Smyly has been terrific for the most part. Hard-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon is unlikely to pitch because of elbow problems. ... Scherzer was baseball's lone 20-game winner, and the Tigers look to have the same excellent depth in their rotation as they did when they won the AL pennant last year. ... Detroit manager Jim Leyland is making his eighth postseason appearance. He is 39-34 in postseason games. ... The Tigers lost to Texas in the 2011 AL championship series and were swept by San Francisco in last year's World Series. They have not won the World Series since 1984.
Athletics: A year after surprising almost everyone with a torrid finish to win the AL West title, the low-budget A's repeated as division champs under Melvin over high-priced Texas and the Los Angeles Angels. ... Oakland (96-66) was consistent all season, becoming the only team to post a winning record each month, capped by a 19-8 September. ... The A's found their power stroke in the second half, led by Moss and Crisp. Oakland hit a major league-leading 88 HRs after the All-Star break, including 74 over the final 49 games. ... The A's got strong pitching all year, with five 10-game winners in the rotation and a deep bullpen. ... Colon is expected to pitch Game 1 after missing the playoffs last year due to a drug suspension. ... The A's held opponents to an AL-low .299 OBP -- their best mark since 1972. They allowed an AL-low 428 walks with an Oakland-record 1,183 Ks. ... With the high strikeout total and a staff that allowed the fewest groundballs in the majors, the A's set a record for fewest assists in a non-strike season with 1,377. That doesn't mean they were poor defensively -- they led the AL in percentage of balls in play turned into outs.
-- Who's No. 1? Leyland finished the regular season with a decision to make. Would he open with Verlander in a nod to his excellence over the last three years? Or would he choose Scherzer, who has been better than Verlander this season and could end up winning the Cy Young Award? It was Verlander's gem in Game 5 that won the division series last year against the A's, but Scherzer will start Game 1 and be in line to pitch Game 5 if there is one.
-- Cespedes' Shoulder. Cespedes was slowed late in the regular season by tendinitis in his right shoulder that the A's hope will be healed by time off before the start of the playoffs. Despite having his average drop more than 50 points in his second season, Cespedes is still one of Oakland's most dangerous bats and needs to be in the lineup for the A's to be at their best. Oakland has played at a .632 clip when Cespedes has been in the lineup the past two years compared to .392 when he is out -- essentially the difference between a first- and last-place team.
-- Cabrera's Health. What's remarkable about Cabrera's stat line is that he compiled it without doing all that much in September. Finally worn down amid injuries that affected his legs and midsection, Cabrera had only two extra-base hits in September. Part of the problem is that Cabrera, never a speedster to begin with, now looks painfully slow on the bases. Will he be rested and ready when this series starts?
-- Brett In The Bullpen. Anderson went from opening-day starter to a spot in the bullpen after missing more than 3 1/2 months with a stress fracture in his right foot. He struggled upon returning, with a 5.74 ERA in 10 relief appearances. But Anderson still has dynamic stuff and the ability to go multiple innings and handle righties and lefties. That kind of starter-turned-reliever was key to San Francisco's World Series run last year when Tim Lincecum allowed one run in 13 innings over five relief outings. The A's hope Anderson can have similar success.
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