OAKLAND -- A's righties Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter are yet to enter the playing field in this year's ALDS, but they're affecting how the series is playing out by worming their way into the conscious of Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
"They've got a couple of big bats sitting there," Leyland said. "You have to watch how you play it."
When Seth Smith came to the plate with a runner on and one away in the seventh inning of Game 3 having homered in his previous at-bat against Anibal Sanchez, Leyland was going to the 'pen. But who to call? Call on a lefty and invite A's manager Bob Melvin to employ the services of Gomes or Carter for the first time this series. Call on a righty and keep Smith in the game as the DH.
"If you noticed last night," Leyland explained. "I chose to go to (Octavio) Dotel to Smith rather than (Drew) Smyly to possibly Gomes or Carter.You never know what Bob might do.But that certainly would have been an option for him.And I just felt that Dotel against Smith was a better option for me than Smyly against maybe Carter or Gomes."
Leyland won that game-within-the-game as Dotel induced a popout to the vast foul ground outside third base, but you can be sure he and his staff have discussed how to handle a similar situation in Game 4.
"We've got Smyly to go if something happens to Scherzer," Leyland said.
Look for Gomes or Carter to get a pinch-hitting appearance if Leyland does go to a lefty. Phil Coke is the only other left-hander in the Tigers' bullpen. He is reserved for late-inning situations, but it appears as if Leyland is more comfortable with him facing the A's strong righties.
While most of the Tigers clubhouse had their equilibrium sidekicked by the thunderous A's crowd on Tuesday, one outfielder claims to like it better than the alternative.
"I think I enjoy it more," left fielder Andy Dirks said. "You don't have to sit and get ragged on."
The Oakland Coliseum is known for its right- and left-field bleachers, and the boisterous fans they hold. Over the regular season, it is common for an opposing corner outfielder to hear -- quite clearly depending on the attendance -- grief in each of his nine defensive innings.
But the loud playoff vibe is hiding Oakland's prime ribbers.
"In this atmosphere, you don't deal with that because there's so much noise from the entire crowd," Dirks said. "You can't pinpoint those few people, like traditionally here you've got five guys behind you talking to you the whole game. But not in this situation."
Dirks claims to enjoy it, but he went 0-for-3 in front of A's fans Tuesday.
Not sure how to interpret his message? Get louder.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland does not believe that experience has any bearing on this series' outcome. He said as much five different times in his press conference Wednesday.
"I believe in talent," Leyland insisted.
With the most home runs and runs scored since the All-Star break, the A's have made it plenty clear that talent is one thing they have.
The Tigers, too, have talent, with last year's AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP anchoring their staff and the first triple crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) holding down the lineup. So the question remains: Who will win -- the less experienced talent or the more experienced talent? Don't ask Leyland.