Underdog A's will continue to rely on rookies
DETROIT — One team has the reigning MVP and another player who just won the Triple Crown.
The Oakland Athletics will try to counter all that by sending — who else? — a rookie to the mound.
“We've been the ‘David' all year,” A's right-hander Jarrod Parker said. “I think obviously it's a role and an image that we've kind of taken on and been able to embrace, and it's fun.”
Parker will start against Detroit ace Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the division series Saturday night. The AL Central-champion Tigers are making their second straight playoff appearance, but Oakland emerged as one of the game's biggest surprises by winning the AL West.
Now the A's have to contend with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera — the Detroit third baseman who might win the American League MVP after Verlander took the award last year.
“We know we've got a great ballclub. We know what we have in the clubhouse,” Cabrera said. “We know we're going to face a very hot team like Oakland. They play unbelievable baseball right now.”
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1967. But he wasn't the only big story in the closing days of the regular season. The A's rallied to win the AL West, edging Texas by one game when they beat the Rangers on the final day.
Not bad for a team that had the lowest opening day payroll in the majors. Oakland got 56 homers and 54 wins from a cast of rookies that included Parker (13-8) and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Rookie left-hander Tommy Milone, who matched Parker with 13 wins, is slated to start Game 2.
“Obviously with Verlander going Game 1, you've got to be on your game,” Parker said. “We have a lot of left-handed bats that are hot right now, and I think that's one thing we've got going for us.”
Outfielder Josh Reddick, one of Oakland's left-handed hitters, hit 32 home runs this year.
The series will start with two games in Detroit, where the weather can be a factor this time of year. In 2006, the Tigers swept the A's in the AL Championship Series, and there were snow flurries at Comerica on a workout day between games. It rained a bit Friday, but the forecast for Saturday looked clear.
That was good news for Verlander (17-8), the powerful right-hander who had two playoff starts cut short by rain last year.
“I saw a little bit of rain today, but I saw actually on my Twitter of all places that it's not — no rain in the forecast for tomorrow,” Verlander said.
Verlander led the majors in strikeouts this year, and Max Scherzer — Detroit's Game 4 starter — finished second. That could be an asset for the Tigers, especially since Oakland struck out more than any other team. Detroit hasn't been very good defensively in 2012, but if the A's aren't making consistent contact, it might not matter.
The Tigers are expected to start Doug Fister in Game 2, followed by Anibal Sanchez. Scherzer, who was bothered by a right shoulder issue down the stretch, threw four innings in the regular-season finale Wednesday — after twisting his right ankle two nights earlier in the celebration after Detroit clinched the division. The Tigers are content to wait until Game 4 to start him.
“The Scherzer situation — coming off a little bit of the ankle situation and the shoulder — we decided that would be the best way to go,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “It would also — just by pitching him, Sanchez in front of Scherzer — would keep Sanchez from keeping off too long.”
The A's begin the postseason days after the death of reliever Pat Neshek's newborn son. Neshek is back with the team for this series.
“Awesome to see him. I spoke to him real briefly,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Got in here today, wanted to be here, rushed to get here. I think the team can kind of insulate you from something like that. You know you're going to get a ton of support.”
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