Melvin on Colon: 'He's been our ace all season'
OAKLAND – A’s manager Bob Melvin said he thinks this year’s Detroit Tigers offense is better than the one that helped knock Oakland out of last year’s playoffs.
“It’s a better lineup this year, and they’re probably a little more versatile in what they do,” Melvin said Wednesday. “They (pinch) hit for a few more guys that maybe last year they didn’t. They just have a deeper lineup.”
As the A’s prepare for the Tigers in the American League Division Series, much of their scouting efforts naturally will revolve around MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera and first baseman Prince Fielder, the vaunted 3-4 combo in the middle of Detroit’s lineup.
But No. 2 hitter Torii Hunter, who joined the Tigers this season after five years with the Los Angeles Angels, has added a different dimension to the club in his 17th major league season.
“You have Hunter sitting in the ‘2’ hole ahead of those guys. It presents its challenges, no doubt,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy that loosens things up. He plays the game with a big smile on his face and he’s a leader on top of it. He gets big hits. Among a team that already has a lot of veteran presence and leadership, I think he takes that to a whole other level.”
You’ll remember it was Hunter who hit a walk-off homer off Grant Balfour on Aug. 29 that prevented the A’s from completing a four-game sweep at Comerica Park.
[RATTO: It's Bill King's time]
The Tigers also have designated hitter Victor Martinez, who hits fifth after missing the entire 2012 season with a left knee injury.
In that August series in Detroit, Melvin took the unusual step of intentionally walking Cabrera with runners on first and second and the A’s leading by three. That loaded the bases for Fielder, and lefty reliever Sean Doolittle coaxed a fly out from Fielder to preserve the lead.
Would Melvin consider the same strategy with Cabrera in the ALDS?
“I think how a guy is swinging at the time plays into it,” Melvin said. “At the time he was on fire. … How you work Cabrera has a lot to do with how the guys are hitting behind him.”
Cabrera was hobbled in September with a groin injury, and it was no coincidence the Tigers averaged just 3.7 runs that month. They averaged more than five per game in July and August. Detroit hit .270 as a team in September – tied for fourth in the majors – but had just 16 home runs in 26 games.