Stage set for Tigers-A's ALDS rematch

Donaldson on 2013 vs. 2012 A's: 'Overall we're a better team'

Stage set for Tigers-A's ALDS rematch
October 3, 2013, 7:30 pm
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Jim Leyland's Tigers defeated Bob Melvin's A's 3-2 in last year's ALDS. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Programming note: Watch A's October Quest tonight a 6 p.m. prior to the first pitch of ALDS Game 1 and following the final out, on Comcast SportsNet California

OAKLAND -- The opponent is the same, so is the setting.

But as the Oakland A’s prepare for the 2013 postseason, they’ll tell you that their own team is quite different from the one that lost to the Detroit Tigers in last year’s American League Division Series.

“Last year we were so young and so green,” Brandon Moss said. “I think we were still kind of trying to buy into ourselves a little bit. This year we’ve been so consistent, so steady.”

[RELATED: A's five keys to ALDS success]

Undoubtedly, the A’s bring stronger credentials into this year’s ALDS rematch with Detroit, which begins with Game 1 on Friday night at the Coliseum.

The A’s came out of the blue in 2012 to claim the AL West title and make their first playoff appearance in six years. This season, they marched to a 96-66 mark -- posting a winning record in every month -- and have more depth and experience.

They secured the No. 2 seed in the AL and earned home-field advantage over the AL Central-champion Tigers (93-69). But according to the betting odds, the Tigers are the favorites in this series.

At betvega.com, Detroit’s odds are 5-1 to win the World Series. The A’s are 8-1.

The Tigers’ stacked starting rotation is a main reason they would be viewed as having an edge. They’ll throw 21-game winner Max Scherzer in Game 1. Justin Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young winner, goes in Game 2, followed by AL ERA champion Anibal Sanchez in Game 3 and 14-game winner Doug Fister in Game 4.

[RELATED: Tigers set ALDS rotation, tab Scherzer for Game 1]

Should the series go to a deciding fifth game, Detroit manager Jim Leyland can choose between Scherzer and Verlander. Both would be fully rested.

But the A’s draw confidence from the fact that they knocked all four of the Tigers’ postseason starters around during a series at Comerica Park in late August. The A’s scored 34 runs and banged out 52 hits in that four-game set, leading to public speculation by the Tigers back then that perhaps the A’s were stealing signs.

“They came into Comerica and whipped us,” Scherzer said in his press conference Thursday. “That shows you what a good team they are. They have a lot of different ways to beat you.”

Scherzer was asked Thursday if he thought the A’s were stealing signs.

“It felt like it,” he said with a smile.

Even though the A’s are buoyed by the knowledge they’ve hit Detroit’s starters, manager Bob Melvin said that only carries so much weight.

“I don’t think we can expect to have the same kind of results even though we’ll try to have the same type of game plan,” he said.

In that August series, the A’s patience at the plate helped run up the pitch count on Detroit’s pitchers. None of the Tigers’ four starters in that series lasted more than five innings, and Sanchez, Verlander and Scherzer all threw 100-plus pitches.

“We’re also aware that the next time they’ll try to get (ahead with) strike one, and we can be aggressive early in the count,” Melvin said. “It’s a little bit of a chess game as far as that goes.”

The A’s will send 18-game winner Bartolo Colon to the mound in Friday’s opener. The 40-year-old Colon, as calm and low-key as any pitcher could be during a game, seems the ideal choice to start Oakland’s playoff opener. The A’s will start two rookies behind him, Sonny Gray in Game 2 and Dan Straily in Game 4, with second-year pitcher Jarrod Parker going in Game 3.

[RELATED: Colon gets Game 1 for A's]

“He’s been our ace all season,” Melvin said of Colon. “The numbers, the way he’s pitching now. We’re lucky to have a veteran like that to go out there for us on the first day.”

However, it’s worth noting that Colon’s last postseason appearance came way back in 2005 with the Los Angeles Angels. He is 2-3 with a 3.61 ERA in nine career postseason starts.

Another storyline in this series is what kind of factor the Coliseum crowd might be. The Tigers remarked after last year’s ALDS how the noise during A’s home games helped prepare them for the loud atmosphere at Yankee Stadium in the AL Championship Series.

The A’s have removed most of the tarps in the upper deck for this postseason, meaning roughly 13,000 more people will cram into the Coliseum for the sold-out Game 1.

[RELATED: A's sell out ALDS opener]

“It was unbelievable (last season),” Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera said. “I don’t know how you are going to prepare, but I think we’re going to be ready. … It’s tough to play (there). Even if they lose, they’re loud. Nine innings in the game, that’s very impressive.”