Oakland pitching holds Cabrera, Fielder down

Oakland pitching holds Cabrera, Fielder down
October 6, 2013, 9:30 am
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It’s been a week since the Orioles played their last game. It’s still baseball weather around here, and that feels kind of strange.

You might think after nearly eight months of baseball consuming my life that I’ve had enough.

It’s actually been a pleasure to watch the first week of playoff games. I’ve seen some of all the games, and all of some of them. Friday was a bit of a challenge because games were on for nearly 12 straight hours, and I do have a life outside of sports.

For the past two years, I’ve picked the Detroit Tigers to reach the World Series. Last year I correctly picked the Tigers and San Francisco Giants, but I forecast a Detroit romp.

Not learning from the past, I chose the Tigers and Nationals for this year, and after watching Detroit play the Orioles six times a few months ago, I still stuck with them as play began last week.

Saturday night made me question my choice.

The best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera looks terribly hampered by injuries, and the Tigers haven’t scored in the last 17 innings, though they won the first game by virtue of a three-run first on Friday.

While I always look at starting pitching before forecasting postseason and almost reflexively picked Detroit because of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, I was astounded by Sonny Gray’s dominance of Detroit.

In late August, Gray was pounded by the Orioles. He allowed six runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-3 Orioles win. That was by far his worst start of the season.

A year ago when the Tigers were swept by the Giants, Prince Fielder was just 1-for-14. He’s just 1-for-8 in the first two games against the Athletics.

Because Oakland isn’t a “glamor” team and plays in the dilapidated Oakland Coliseum, which has had lots of names in his 46 years, it’s often overlooked.

A year ago, the Athletics put on a late rush and beat Texas out for the AL West, sending the Orioles to Arlington for the wild-card game. This year, they won a lot more easily.

Oakland features Josh Donaldson, last month’s American League Player of the Month. In his first full year in the majors, Donaldson will get lots of votes in the AL Most Valuable Player competition.

In September, he hit .337 with five home runs and 16 RBIs. He hit .375 and drove in nine runs in seven games this season against the Orioles. For the year, Donaldson hit .301 with 24 home runs and 93 RBIs. He also had 37 doubles and a .384 on-base percentage.

The Athletics won 25 of their last 35 to finish with 96 wins, one fewer than Boston and two fewer than St. Louis.

For years, Oakland has been dismissed as a “Moneyball,” team, which could no longer compete once other teams caught on to their methods.

Billy Beane, portrayed by Brad Pitt in the 2011 movie, has traded shrewdly. Donaldson, who’s soon to be 28, is a late bloomer traded to Oakland by the Cubs in 2008 in a trade that featured Rich Harden.

Beane outbid others for the fabulous Yoenis Cespedes. The Cuban defector is now the second most noted refugee from the island nation in the playoffs. Yasiel Puig has been a treat to watch for the Dodgers.

Another late bloomer, Brandon Moss, who’s now 30, knocked around the major leagues for years until Beane signed his as a free agent. Moss, who’s played for the Red Sox, Pirates and Phillies, has 51 home runs in the past two years.

Another starter, Dan Straily, who won 10 games this year, was picked in the 24th round of the draft.

Cabrera, Fielder and the rest of the Tigers’ suddenly inept offense will try and win two games at Comerica Park on Monday and Tuesday so they won’t have to return to Oakland for a fifth game.

Both National League series are tied at 1-1, too. Boston leads Tampa Bay 2-0 in the series that’s probably of most interest to Orioles fans.

The Red Sox qualified for the postseason 10 days before the Rays did. Tampa Bay had a series of veritable elimination games and finished the season with 14 wins in 19 games.