By: Jack O’Keefe
It has been almost a week since I have written an Athletics preview. In that time, the A’s have rattled off four straight victories. Part of me wants to stay away, as a means to respect the streak, but I am too giddy about the A’s. So, if they lose, I apologize in advance. Two of the hottest teams in the American League clash in Oakland this weekend. The Tigers are fresh off their sweep of the Houston Astros, while the Athletics had a two-game sweep of Arizona. The Athletics also won the series against Houston, so things are rolling for both teams right now. Tarik Skubal gets the nod tonight for the Tigers, while Sean Manaea gets the green light to go for the Athletics. What can we expect in this matchup? Read below to find out!
Money Line: DET +150, OAK -177
Run Line: DET +1.5 (-150), OAK -1.5 (+125)
Total: 8.5 (O -107, U -114)
First Pitch: 8:40 PM CST, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Detroit Tigers (6-6)
The timing for the third game of the series to complete the sweep could not have happened at a better time for Detroit. Prior to the game Wednesday night, the Astros scratched four key starters: Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Martin Maldonado. It was later disclosed that these players “may or may not” have contracted COVID-19. As it stands, the Astros will battle without those four members for the time being. Back to the Tigers though, who rightfully won three games over the mighty Astros. The Tigers benefited from solid starting pitching by Casey Mize, Matthew Boyd and Michael Fulmer. Combined, the three starters went 18.2 innings and only allowed three runs (1.45 ERA). The bullpen for the Tigers has been good, not great this season, so relying on their starters to eat innings has been vital to them playing .500 baseball so far this season. Bryan Garcia and Gregory Soto have been the mainstays for Detroit coming out of the bullpen this season. Garcia has two saves, but he has been hit around a bit in two out of the six games he has pitched in this season. His ERA stands at a robust 5.40, so he will have to work on lowering that ERA if he wants to continue pitching in high-leverage situations. Gregory Soto has also pitched in six games this season, allowing runs to come only in one outing, his first one, against the Indians. The southpaw has been used as more of a setup option rather than a closer, so he would be likely to fill the closer role, should Garcia continue to falter.
There is one bat that every pitcher in baseball ought to know by now in the Detroit lineup: Akil Baddoo. Baddoo exploded on the scene for 2021, crushing the baseball all over the park and single handedly carrying the Tigers on his back to victory. The rookie outfielder has a .370 batting average, along with four homeruns and 11 RBIs. Along with the hot bat of Baddoo, the Tigers have been benefitting the hot streaks of Jeimer Candelario and Wilson Ramos. Ramos leads the American League (feels weird saying that) with 6 homer runs to open the 2021 campaign, two of those homeruns were served up against Houston on Tuesday. Candelario has found his groove at the plate as well, hitting safely in five-straight games, while posting a batting average of .473.
Tarik Skubal is the starting pitcher for tonight’s game, and he has not been as sharp as Detroit would like to open the season. With two starts this season against Cleveland, Skubal has allowed eight runs on only 9.1 innings pitched. Last season, pitching on the road was a nightmare for Skubal, who had a road ERA of 6.86.
Oakland Athletics (5-7)
Not much looked promising at all for Oakland as they opened the season up by losing six straight games. Since then, the A’s have rattled off five wins out of their last six games. The 4-3 win over the Dodgers in extra innings last Wednesday seemed to have jolted the A’s out of their slumber. They are a good team that has the ability to win. It is similar to a basketball player. All a basketball player needs is to see one shot go through the hoop, and it will bring back their confidence of being a good shooter. All the A’s needed was one win, and the rest has been history since. During their four game winning streak, the A’s have compiled 29 runs of offense. That seems almost impossible after the way things looked in the first six games to open the season.
Two bats have been key for Oakland’s recent success: Mark Canha and Jed Lowrie. Canha is hitting a scorching .350 over the last week, while Lowrie is hitting an astonishing .473 in the last week. Not only has Lowrie been scooping up hits, he has been racking up the RBIs out there, 10 in the last week alone. His 11 RBI total on the season is currently tied for 9th most in baseball this season. When he gets on base, Ramon Laureano has been a loose cannon on the base path. He currently leads all of baseball with eight steals this season, three coming in the last three games alone.
Thanks to the offensive outburst, the pressure has certainly been lifted off the pitchers these last few days. Even still, the starting pitching was much sharper during their five game road trip bonanza. While it is great seeing Montas and Bassitt have solid recent outings, I am still concerned for the success of Jesus Luzardo. Luzardo has not been sharp in a start for the A’s since last September. He held the Dodgers to just two runs earlier this season, so I guess that was a solid start by definition, but something just feels off with him. Against Arizona, Luzardo was tagged for five runs on six hits while failing to work past the third inning. Maybe an opportunity to shutdown an offensive powered club like Detroit this week will give him a boost of confidence. A pitcher who does not need a boost of confidence for the A’s has been Lou Trivino. Since filling in for the injured closer, Trevor Rosenthal, Trivino has flourished for Oakland. He only has one save this year, so by no means is he a lock for the closer spot with Jake Diekman still healthy; however, Trivino has been a much stronger pitcher this season than Diekman. Trivino has gone 8.2 innings and only allowed two hits and one run. Diekman has pitched 5.1 innings, and he has surrendered seven hits and three earned runs. Quite the difference from last season, where he only allowed eight hits and one earned run over a 21.1 inning span.
Analysis and Prediction
Both teams have had their fair share of scoring runs as of late. However, both teams were playing in hitter friendly ballparks (Minute Maid Park and Chase Field). The Coliseum is not exactly a place where you expect to see a plethora of runs scored. I think the Tigers have more of a streaky offense than the Athletics do right now. Manaea has faced these Detroit hitters in the past (career .244 batting average against him), whereas Skubal has yet to face an Oakland batter. I think this will be not quite the slugfest game most are expecting it to be, if I am being honest. The A’s are hot right now, and I cannot bet against that. I am going to back the A’s ML (-177) as my best bet tonight.
Jack’s 2021 MLB picks: (5-4)
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