Filling in for ailing Griffin, righty latest young A's hurler to take hill in series
Barry M. Bloom
DETROIT -- It's safe to say that unlike the Tigers in this American League Division Series, the A's offer few household names in their rotation.
Right-hander Dan Straily, at 24, is the latest of the A's kiddy corps to pitch in this series, and he's slated to oppose veteran right-hander Doug Fister in Game 4 on Tuesday at Comerica Park at 2 p.m. PT on TBS. An A's win secures them a spot in the AL Championship Series.
Straily is following Sonny Gray, 23, and Jarrod Parker, 24, in the best-of-five series. And like the Tigers rotation of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Fister, the A's kids -- pitching behind Bartolo Colon -- are beginning to make a name for themselves.
"Yeah, and why not?" Straily said before the A's beat the Tigers, 6-3, in Game 3 on Monday to take a 2-1 lead. "We come in here and we're a very confident group. Just because everyone hasn't heard of us, doesn't mean that we don't belong here, that we aren't good enough to be here. We all know what we can do individually and accomplish as a group as well."
Straily, 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts during his first full season, wouldn't have started in the postseason rotation had right-hander A.J. Griffin been healthy. Griffin, 25, has a sore right elbow, and may not even be available if the A's move on to the AL Championship Series.
Griffin was 14-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts and most likely would have been the Game 4 choice of Oakland's baseball brain trust, despite allowing a league-high 36 homers in 200 innings.
As it stands, Griffin is recovering from the injury, manager Bob Melvin said. Griffin played catch recently, and though not at 100 percent, he "has felt better than he has postgame his last three starts."
About what Griffin might have to do to be activated later in the postseason, Melvin added:
"He would have to throw at least one full bullpen [session]. Whether or not we try to get him some hitters, I don't know if that's in the offing. But he would have to be comfortable and throw a pretty strenuous bullpen [session] where he's using all of his pitches to see how his arm responds the next day."
And so, like Gray on Saturday night in Oakland, Straily is making the first postseason start of his young career. When the dust settles after Game 4, the Nos. 2-4 pitchers in Oakland's ALDS rotation will have made a collective five postseason starts.
Gray was nonplussed Saturday night, matching Verlander pitch for pitch and throwing eight shutout innings in a 1-0 A's victory. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out nine.
A's pitchers had held the Tigers scoreless for 17 consecutive innings, heading into Game 3, dating back to a three-spot Detroit scored off Colon in the first inning of their 3-2 Game 1 win.
"What [Gray] did that night was special, fun to watch, fun to be a part of in the dugout there," Straily said. "It shows you what can happen when you stick to your game plan. Good things happen when you get the ball down. That's basic stuff. Sonny told me the other day, the first couple of innings you find yourself pretty jacked up. After that, you have to find a way to keep pitching and he was able to do that.
"It's a game of adjustments, in-game adjustments. That's the way you win and lose ballgames. Just stick to what we have been doing, because it seems to be working."
Straily has made one career start against the Tigers, coming at Comerica on Aug. 28. He threw six innings of one-run, eight-hit ball and was credited with the victory in a 14-4 win.
Melvin and the A's coaching staff involve the pitchers in collective and individual sessions, going into and during a series, Straily said.
"We'll have our meeting before the game, me and the catcher and the pitching coach," he said. "We'll finalize a game plan right before the game in terms of watching video and getting ready and checking out scouting reports."
Melvin said the approach for any of his starters is a balance between going after the opposing hitters' weaknesses and utilizing the strengths of that particular pitcher.
In Straily's case, he'll lean more toward the young righty's strengths.
"Trying to get ahead [in the count]. He's got a good slider and being able to get himself into a position to use the slider," Melvin said.