Mindful of approach, A's plan to make Tigers work
OAKLAND -- Though it'd be nice, the A's are hardly expecting a repeat performance against Detroit's formidable foursome, bringing into question their approach against them when the American League Division Series begins Friday (6:30 p.m. PT, TBS).
The last time Oakland hitters faced Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister in a four-game set, they outscored Detroit, 34-20.
Scherzer, who starts Game 1 against Bartolo Colon on Friday, was knocked out by the A's after just five innings on Aug. 29, having previously completed at least six in every start after April 24. The A's tagged him for a season-high six runs on a season high-tying eight hits, two of them homers.
"That doesn't always happen off him," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We just had a good series where we swung the bats very well no matter who we were facing, and it just carried over and we had some momentum at the time. It ended up being a very good offensive series for us. 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."
"That was big," said Brandon Moss. "I think it's kind of what got us on an offensive role. The knock against our offense last year is that we always struggled against really good starters. We'd face an ace and get shut down. They've got four or five aces over there. Obviously, you're not going to go out and do what we did every single night, but to have success against them and get on a roll like we did really did a lot for our confidence."
Much of that success stemmed from the A's ability to force Detroit's starters to labor in the first few innings, particularly the opening one. Oakland made them throw a total of 117 pitches in the first inning, including 29 by Scherzer.
"We did, but we're also aware, too, that the next time we see teams they'll try to get strike one, and we can be aggressive early in the count, too," Melvin said. "It's a bit of a chess game as far as that goes. We have the ability to be aggressive early, and we have the ability to work counts. You have to look for a ball that you want, and if it's not there early, then you move on and try to wait for that pitch."
The A's ranked fourth in the Majors in pitches per plate appearance this season, averaging 3.94. Only the Indians (3.95), the Twins and Red Sox (both finishing at 4.02) saw more pitches. Yet the A's also swung at the first pitch 24.5 percent of the time, the seventh-highest mark of any team.
"We're up there looking for pitches that we can handle," said hitting coach Chili Davis. "Our main objective is to get pitches we can hit. We're going to be as aggressive early as they force us to be. They're going to nibble or they're not. I think the more you make a pitcher pitch, the more chances are there they're going to make a mistake.
"We have to balance being aggressive and waiting for that pitch. They've done it all year. That's why we're here, in the position we're in now."