Have you ever heard the proverb “lightning never strikes in the same place twice”? In the baseball sense especially it’s completely false. For the second straight year, the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics find themselves facing off in a win or go home Game Five at the Oakland Coliseum.
And just like last year, Justin Verlander will toe the slab for the Tigers with Sonny Gray once again opposing the former AL Cy Young Award winner.
In game two, Gray matched Verlander pitch-for-pitch and the A’s won on a walk-off in the ninth to tie the series at one. Now if the Tigers hope to change the forecast in Oakland from Sonny with a chance of K’s to cloudy with a chance of an Oakland beating, here are five keys to win game five.
Coco Crisp: You know when you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, half asleep and you stub your toe on the wall? That is the exact feeling Crisp has been to the Tigers all series. Verlander has to make sure he slows down the hot scoring Crisp. Since Game 2 (again against Verlander) where Crisp went 0 for 4 he’s had seven hits while the A’s have plated 12 total runs. Coincidence? I think not. Keep him off the basepaths.
Justin Verlander: Is Verlander back? Some people are still playing the role of skeptic after Verlander had a less than Verlander season as some are calling it. But if you look at his last five starts the former Cy Young and MVP is 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA. Don’t pay attention to that 1-2 record, Verlander has been dominate. Over those last five starts he’s also struck out 42 batters 32 2/3 innings plus pitched. This is all while sporting a 5.25 SO/BB ratio. I think the Tigers ace is back in form and has a shot to repeat last year’s game five performance when he threw a complete game shutout to eliminate the A’s.
Austin Jackson: Jackson has only two hits this series and for the most part has been doing nothing but striking out. But, Jackson got some major redemption in game four when he drove in the go ahead run late to give the Tigers the win. Jackson has to lay off the breaking balls and stop swinging at fastballs that are up and under his fists. It is crucial he gets on base for the big boys behind him to drive him in.
Tigers’ offense: Game 4 was the first time Tigers fans saw any kind of life from the Tigers’ offense this series. Through the first three games the Tigers scored just six runs. In game 4 the Tigers hung eight runs on the extremely good A’s pitching staff. In game five the Tigers must — MUST — come out strong and not wait till they are behind to start scoring runs. If the Tigers’ offense looks like it did the first three games they will not be in the ALCS. Season over. End of story.
Jhonny Peralta: If Peralta can come out and keep playing the way he has over the last two games the Tigers have a great shot at knocking out Oakland for the second straight year. Peralta has hit .375 with a homer and five RBIs in the postseason. Think about this: the Tigers have scored a total of 14 runs, Peralta is responsible for five of the 14. That’s damn near 50% of the runs scored this series. There’s no question he’ll be playing left field tonight, the only hope is he remains a key cog in the Tigers’ offense.
Prediction: Tigers win 5-2. Justin Verlander goes eight innings while striking out 10 and surrenders one earned run.