DETROIT – One team has the reigning MVP and another player who just won the Triple Crown.
The Oakland Athletics will try to counter all that by sending – who else? – a rookie to the mound.
Weve been the David all year, Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker said. I think obviously its a role and an image that weve kind of taken on and been able to embrace and its fun.
Parker, a Fort Wayne native and Norwell grad, will start against Detroit ace Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the division series tonight. The AL Central-champion Tigers are making their second straight playoff appearance, but Oakland emerged as one of the games biggest surprises by winning the AL West.
Now the As have to contend with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera – the Detroit third baseman who might win the American League MVP after Verlander took the award last year.
We know weve got a great ballclub. We know what we have in the clubhouse, Cabrera said. We know were going to face a very hot team like Oakland. They play unbelievable baseball right now.
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1967. But he wasnt the only big story in the closing days of the regular season. The As rallied to win the AL West, edging Texas by one game when they beat the Rangers on the final day.
Not bad for a team that had the lowest opening day payroll in the majors. Oakland got 56 homers and 54 wins from a cast of rookies that included Parker (13-8) and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Rookie left-hander Tommy Milone, who matched Parker with 13 wins, is slated to start Game 2.
Obviously with Verlander going Game 1, youve got to be on your game, Parker said. We have a lot of left-handed bats that are hot right now, and I think thats one thing weve got going for us.
Outfielder Josh Reddick, one of Oaklands left-handed hitters, hit 32 home runs this year.
The series will start with two games in Detroit, where the weather can be a factor this time of year. In 2006, the Tigers swept the As in the AL championship series, and there were snow flurries at Comerica on a workout day between games. It rained a bit Friday, but the forecast for today looked clear.
That was good news for Verlander (17-8), the powerful right-hander who had two playoff starts cut short by rain last year.
I saw a little bit of rain today, but I saw actually on my Twitter of all places that its not – no rain in the forecast for tomorrow, Verlander said.
Verlander led the majors in strikeouts this year, and Max Scherzer – Detroits Game 4 starter – finished second. That could be an asset for the Tigers, especially since Oakland struck out more than any other team. Detroit hasnt been good defensively in 2012, but if the As arent making consistent contact, it might not matter.
The Tigers are expected to start Doug Fister in Game 2, followed by Anibal Sanchez.