The A’s face one of the American League’s toughest starters tonight in Justin Verlander, and they’re doing it with a different looking lineup:
A’s — Drew SS, Smith DH, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Moss LF, Donaldson 3B, Barton 1B, Norris C, Pennington 2B; Anderson LHP.
Tigers — Jackson CF, Infante 2B, Cabrera 3B, Fielder 1B, Young DH, Peralta SS, Garcia RF, Dirks LF, Laird C; Verlander RHP.
Coco Crisp remains out with pink eye, which is affecting both his eyes. That’s a tough break considering he’s a .364 hitter (8 for 22) lifetime against Verlander. Though A’s manager Bob Melvin said Crisp’s condition seems to have improved slightly, he summed it up this way: “I guess you would have to consider it severe.” Officially, Crisp remains day to day. The A’s consider the infection contagious, though Melvin said Crisp seems to be on the tail end of the “contagious” stage. “He’s got his own towels and everything over there. You try to semi-quarantine him in the dugout however you can.”
Daric Barton draws his first start at first base since he was recalled from the minors last week, and this has more than a few of you up in arms, based on the comments I’m seeing on Twitter. I’m not surprised. It’s a pretty critical time of the season to be throwing a little-used reserve into the lineup. Add in Barton’s career numbers off Verlander — 1 for 10, 5 strikeouts — and it’s a head-scratcher. But Melvin said Barton’s inclusion is a byproduct of Crisp’s absence. Yoenis Cespedes (feeling OK after twisting his right ankle) is in center and Brandon Moss is playing left. Rather than play Chris Carter at first — he’s 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Verlander — Melvin said he wanted to cram his lineup with more left-handed bats against the right-hander.
“(Carter) and Moss are still our platoon at first,” Melvin said. “It’s just a little different flavor for this game. I wanted to get another left-handed bat in there, a guy that’s faced Verlander a little bit. Defensively, (Barton) is very good at first. This is not playing into the Carter/Moss situation. It’s more about the Coco situation than anything else and having to play Moss in the outfield.”
It’s worth noting that Melvin didn’t necessarily have to play Moss in left field. He could have went with veteran Jonny Gomes in left, a right-handed hitter who is 0 for 5 career against Verlander, and kept Moss at first base. You could argue that a grizzled veteran such as Gomes is a good option for a big game such as tonight’s, and you’d have a strong argument.
But a definite strength of Melvin’s has been his knack for calling on the right guy at the right time this season, and putting them in position to succeed. We’ll see if this is one of those cases tonight …