ALDS Elimination Game

183882-650-366DETROIT TIGERS (95-71) at OAKLAND ATHLETICS (98-68)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Detroit -109 & 6.5 flat

The Tigers will travel to the west coast Thursday night in an attempt to defeat the Athletics in the ALDS in consecutive years.

Detroit’s bats woke up in an 8-6 victory in Game 4, but managed just three runs in the two games in Oakland this series. This decisive Game 5 will feature former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.51 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) for the Tigers, while the A’s counter with 23-year-old rookie Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.51 ERA, 1.09 WHIP). Neither pitcher was originally slated to start this contest, but Max Scherzer was forced into relief duty in Game 4, and Gray was deemed a better option than Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon. Oakland has a slight edge over the Tigers in 2013, going 6-5 overall against them (including playoffs). Over the first two games of the series at O.co Coliseum, the two teams split, with each win coming by just a single run. Including playoffs, the A’s are 53-30 (.639) at home this year but lost 3-of-5 games when hosting the Tigers who are 43-40 (.518) on the road (including playoffs). Oakland’s OF Yoenis Cespedes will look to extend his playoff hitting streak in this contest, which is now at nine games.

Justin Verlander may have lost a little bit over the past season, but has not lost his ability to pitch deep into games and perform in the clutch. In Game 2 of this series, Verlander threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk while racking up 11 strikeouts. This marked the third straight scoreless outing for Verlander, who has tossed 19 consecutive shutout innings, all on the road. Despite his late-season resurgence, the Tigers are a miserable 1-10 over his past 11 outings, seven of which have been quality starts. Overall in his postseason career, Verlander has gone 6-4 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 13 starts. But in his past three playoff starts versus Oakland, he has a miniscule 0.39 ERA and 0.74 WHIP, allowing just one run and 17 base-runners in 23 innings, while fanning 33 A’s hitters (12.9 K/9). For his career in this matchup, the right-hander is 11-6 (team 11-8) with a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP versus Oakland. This includes a 2.00 ERA over three start against them in 2013. A’s OF Coco Crisp has had an outstanding series, going 7-for-14 with three walks, two doubles, 2 RBI and four runs, and has had no problem with Verlander in the past (8-for-24, 2 doubles, 3 RBI). Fellow OF Josh Reddick will not be looking forward to this matchup though, having gone 2-for-13 (.154 BA) with four strikeouts in his career versus the right-hander. Verlander has pitched deep into games all season (108.6 pitches per start and 6.4 IP per start) and Detroit hopes he can do this again. The Tigers bullpen has not been the greatest in the 2013 season (4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) but did save 73.2% of its opportunities. Closer Joaquin Benoit (24 saves, 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in regular season) struggled in Game 4, giving up two runs in one inning of a non-save situation.

Sonny Gray was brilliant in his postseason debut in Game 2, tossing eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts, while allowing just six base-runners (four singles, two walks). That was his first appearance versus this Tigers lineup, but the results weren’t too shocking considering what he’s done at home this season. In seven starts at O.co Coliseum, Gray is now 3-1 (team 5-2) with a 1.66 ERA and 0.90 WHIP piling up 47 strikeouts with just 10 walks in these 48.2 innings. Detroit’s bats have been relatively quiet this series, batting .234 BA with four times as many strikeouts (32) as walks (eight). However, DH Victor Martinez and LF Jhonny Peralta each homers during huge performances in Game 4, where the duo combined to go 5-for-7 with 4 RBI and three runs. The right-handed Gray has been nearly as impressive versus lefties (.198 BA, 2 HR in 101 AB) as he has against right-handed hitters (.226 BA, 2 HR in 137 AB). Gray has averaged 6.2 innings per start overall, and 7.0 IP per start at home. But if he gets into trouble, Oakland’s bullpen has been spectacular overall on the year, going 25-19 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. A’s relievers have been even more dominant at home (18-7, 2.95 ERA, 1.20 WHIP). Closer Grant Balfour has been very important in Oakland victories this series, with a win and a save in two appearances while holding his opponents hitless in two innings with one walk and one strikeout.