If you’re reading this, you managed to survive Game 4. Congratulations, you get to watch the Tigers face Sonny Gray again with the entire season on the line for both teams. If you’re not a Tigers fan, this might sound exciting. If you’re a Tigers fan, this probably sounds like some sort of torture the government doesn’t even know about yet. Fear not, we’ve got you covered. Tomorrow is going to be an emotional struggle. You’re going to wake up impatient and anxious and you’re going to be a barely functioning wreck before too long. Embrace it. Here are some keys to the game.
Miguel Cabrera isn’t healthy. At the plate, he’s still one of your nine best so he needs to be in the lineup, but he’s not moving around well at third, so you have to consider the consequences. Leyland said he’s sticking with him, but at some point the A’s are going to realize bunting to third is going to get them on base a lot. It might make sense to do some sort of carousel in which Cabrera lands at DH, Victor goes behind the dish, and Peralta goes to third. It’s not happening, but Cabrera’s limited ability at third and diminished offensive capabilities may loom large.
Well, this is an innovative list! The Tigers starter is obviously a huge key. If he’s the Verlander we’ve seen over the last few weeks then the game swings wildly in the Tigers favor. The key to the last outing was a generous zone and a full compliment of pitches. It sounds like he won’t be able to call on the Scherzer/Sanchez cavalry, so he’s going to have to carry the load.
Figure out Sonny Gray
Gray was great on Saturday, I’m not sure anyone would argue. But the Tigers also had a pretty terrible approach at the plate. For one, they appeared entirely unprepared for his curveball and chased far too many. They swung at 43% of his curveballs outside the zone and whiffed at 33% of curveballs at which they swung. Clearly, they missed the scouting report and refused to lay off the excellent breaking ball.
Additionally, the TIgers found themselves in good hitters’ counts quite often but routinely went after bad pitches while they were ahead and turned good situations into easy outs. They swung at 17 pitches in hitters counts. They whiffed once, fouled off one, and put eight in play. Of those eight, five were ground balls to the right side and three were in the air. None of them were well hit balls.
Let me say that again. The Tigers swung at 17 pitches in hitters counts and didn’t hit the ball hard one time. They swung at 47 of Gray’s 111 pitches and didn’t hit any of them very hard. It’s one thing to get carved up by a good pitcher when he gets ahead, but good hitters need to make good contact when they are ahead in the count. This was a problem throughout the series until yesterday, so hopefully it wasn’t a Gray specific problem and the Tigers have sorted it out.
All Hands on Deck
Leyland isn’t going to use Scherzer or Sanchez, which is understandable if it’s because they haven’t had enough time to recover, but they still need to empty the bullpen if the time comes. Porcello, Smyly, and Benoit need to be ready to go from the first pitch. Verlander is Verlander, but you can’t afford to let your pride get the best of you. I have full confidence in him, but you can’t stay with him because he’s Justin Verlander. Leyland deployed the bullpen perfectly in Game 4, he needs to do it again in Game 5.
Nothing here is very groundbreaking, but there’s really not much left to say. The Tigers are playing a grueling ALDS. Surprise! They’ve played the A’s to a draw so far and everything that’s happened so far can be thrown out the window. There’s no momentum or karma or whatever. Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray. Again. Four days after the first round, they’re going again.
It’s going to be fun but it’s going to be torture. This might be the end, but it might buy us at least four more. See you all on the other side.