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Series vs. A’s started Tigers’ September stumble; Legendary radio voice Bill King on Hall list again

In looking to the playoffs, how much meaning can be put in the regular season games?

The A’s and Tigers open a best-of-five American League Division Series Friday in Oakland. The last time they met was in Detroit in August. The A’s won the first three games by a cumulative 28-13 score and had a 6-3 lead in the ninth inning of the fourth game before the sweep slipped away.

One thing about the Tigers is that they haven’t been the same since that series, even though they went on to sew up the American League Central with a 93-69 record.

To that point of the season, the Tigers had played 130 games, had a 77-54 record (the A’s were 72-57), had a team batting average of .283 and had scored 662 runs or 5.1 runs per game while averaging 1.2 homers per game. The Detroit pitchers had a 3.49 ERA and had allowed less than 0.8 homers per game.

Starting with the A’s series, the Tigers hitters were never the same. Detroit’s average actually went up, to .284, but they averaged just 4.2 runs per game and less than 0.8 homers per game. And the Tigers were 16-16 during the push to October.

Not all of that can be pinned on the A’s, to be sure. Miguel Cabrera has been dealing with an abdominal injury that has limited him to just one September homer. But the fact is September has been bad for the Tigers as a whole, and the series against the A’s from Aug. 26-29 was when the downturn started.

The A’s aren’t going to assume that’s going to continue, but the Tigers are more than a little concerned. This world-wrecking offense scored one or zero runs in seven September games.

“We’ve got to score runs,’’ Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the Detroit Free Press late last month. “That’s as simple as it is. We need to get on the board with some runs.’’

That could change the way the A’s attack the Tigers. In the August series, Oakland manager Bob Melvin intentionally walked Cabrera (.348, 44 homers) on Aug. 26 in the first game of the series with runners on first and second.

That loaded the bases in a game the A’s led 8-4 to face Prince Fielder, the Tigers’ cleanup hitter and a serious home run threat. Sean Doolittle came out of the bullpen to get Fielder to fly out and the A’s went on to an 8-6 win.

On Wednesday Melvin said he ordered the walk by reliever Dan Otero because of how hot Cabrera was at the time. With Cabrera decidedly cooler, the A’s might choose to pitch to the Detroit third baseman in a similar situation this time around.

It seemed a bit of a stretch to walk Cabrera with a man on first base in August. It would seem that in the course of six weeks, it would be a sizeable stretch to do it now.

 

–It seems ridiculous that it’s taken this long for him to win, but legendary A’s radio voice Bill King was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award yet again.

Making the list of 10 is nothing new for King. It’s the seventh time he’s landed there. But he keeps getting bypassed, to the consternation of A’s fans who grew up listening to the complete radio experience that was Bill King, who also did the radio work for the Warriors and Raiders.

It’s possible there’s a game-change this year in the fact that Ken Korach just published a book about his late radio partner, “Holy Toledo,’’ that has stirred the memories of the fine broadcaster King was.

Others on the list for the award (it will be announced Dec. 11): Duane Kuiper of the Giants broadcast crew, Joe Castiglione, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Eric Nadel, Eduardo Ortego, Mike Shannon, Dewayne Staats and Pete van Wieren.

Those choosing the winner are the 16 living recipients of the award and four broadcast historians/columnists.

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Game 130 wrapup: Doolittle, Cook survive bases-loaded jams; Griffin finally gets first win of August

You can put together reams of printed pages about Miguel Cabrera and they won’t tell you anything more than the reverential way others in baseball talk about the Tigers’ third baseman.
He’s a great hitter. He doesn’t have any evident weaknesses. There’s no part of the plate he doesn’t cover. There’s no part of the bleachers he can’t reach with his homers.
The trouble is, Prince Fielder is no day at the beach. Fielder is having probably his worst big league season, but no one would willingly pitch to Fielder with the bases loaded with a 7-4 lead unless the alternative was pitching to Cabrera with two men on with a 7-4 lead.
Even with two men on, Cabrera occasionally will get walked intentionally, as was the case in the seventh inning Monday. A’s manager Bob Melvin was willing to take the risk and have Fielder bat as the go-ahead run rather than have Cabrera bat as the tying run.
So he had reliever Dan Otero load the bases by walking Cabrera after the count unintentionally got to 2-0, then went to the bullpen for Sean Doolittle.
This is not a high-percentage move. Coming into the game Fielder was 6-for-14 (.429) with two walks after 16 previous intentional walks to Cabrera.
“I’m sure it gives him extra motivation,’’ the manager said. “It was a chance I felt we had to take.’’
And Doolittle has hardly been rock-solid of late. In 2.2 innings over four games, he’d allowed six runs. But he was well rested, and he throws a mean fastball.
Ultimately, he was able to get what he thought was a “routine fly ball, until I turned around and saw Coco sprinting.’’
That was center fielder Coco Crisp, who said he knew that there is seldom anything routine when Fielder makes contact.
“Prince Fielder hit the ball,’’ Crisp said. “When that happens, the ball will go a long way.’’
Melvin’s gamble paid off, but it’s not likely that will be of much comfort the next time that situation comes up.
Given the potency of the Tigers offense and the fact that the A’s play three more games in Comerica Park this week, a repeat wouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

–There was another bases-loaded situation Monday, and there was every bit as much riding on the outcome.
The Tigers were down 8-5 after Victor Martinez’s homer in the eighth inning, and with two out, the Tigers got a pair of hits off Ryan Cook, who then walked Austin Jackson.
That was followed by a visit from pitching coach Curt Young, who wanted to get a couple of things straight with Torii Hunter at the plate.
“He wanted to make sure I struck to my game plan and executed my pitches,’’ Cook said.
The key pitch was the first one, a strike. Cook said he wanted it down. It was up, but it was a strike.
“From there I was in the position to make my pitches,’’ Cook said.
Hunter is one of the best hitters in the game with men on base, but this time Cook struck him out.

–A.J. Griffin had gone four August starts without a win. He was 0-2, but the A’s had won the other two starts after he left the game.
On Monday, for once, the a’s offense kicked in early enough that even a couple of two-run homers, one each by Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera, weren’t enough to deny Griffin the win.
“The bats were outstanding tonight,’’ Griffin said. “We’ll build off this one.’’
Griffin came into the game with the Major League lead with 30 homers allowed, and now the number is up to 32. A dozen times now he has allowed multiple homers in a game, which ties the A’s franchise record originally set by Catfish Hunter in 1973.
Homers have been on Griffin’s mind of late, but he’s trying to get past

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Game 91 wrapup: Cespedes wants to `bring the win’ in Home Run Derby; Gallego to sub for Melvin (and mom) as batting practice thrower

There will be no pressure on Yoenis Cespedes Monday night as he takes part in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby.

No pressure from first baseman Brandon Moss, who said after Tuesday’s game “if he doesn’t win the Home Run Derby, I’m going to be disappointed.’’

No pressure from manager Bob Melvin, who is Cespedes’s favorite batting practice pitcher but who is bowing out of making a quick cross-country jaunt to New York City.

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Game 13 wrapup: Cooler heads prevail after Fielder HBP; A’s strikeouts high, but lower; Crisp possible for Monday

One of the undercurrents of the first two weeks of the Major League season is how fragile Major League tempers and Major League bodies are.

The Dodgers are having to make do without Zack Greinke thanks to the broken collarbone he suffered when he and the Padres’ Carlos Quintana got into a scuffle after Greinke hit Quintana with a pitch the other day.

Nothing like that happened Sunday in Oakland in Detroit’s 10-1 win over the A’s, but it could have.

Tigers’ first baseman Prince Fielder, who is a giant of a man, didn’t take kindly to being hit by a pitch thrown by Jarrod Parker. Fielder made his displeasure known to A’s catcher Derek Norris.

“He told me it was `a little high for my liking,’ ’’ Norris said after the game. “I told him it was a pitch that got away from (pitcher Jarrod Parker) coming up. He said OK and went to first base.’’

You have to think that’s Fielder’s approach is the better one than Quentin’s. Charging the mound in righteous fury is may be good for the soul in the short-term, but it’s bad for the body (see Greinke) and it’s bad for the wallet (see the eight-day suspension slapped on Quentin).

 

–The A’s won the American League West last year despite Oakland batters leading the league in strikeouts.

And strikeouts are an item to look at now, 13 games into the season, with the A’s having fanned 38 times in the last three games, eight of those Sunday.

Even at that, the A’s are much improved in the strikeout wars, down to 7.31 strikeouts per game now from last year’s 8.56 per game.

“I think you have to look at it that the Tigers have strikeout pitchers,’’ Norris said. “They are paid millions and millions to get those strikeouts. There are times they’ll make you swing and miss.’’

Oakland manager Bob Melvin has been dealing with the high rate of Oakland strikeouts almost from the time he took the job, and it doesn’t seem to be keeping him up nights.

“I don’t know how we could have been swinging much better than we had been coming into this series,’’ Melvin said. “We had good at-bats in winning the game Friday.

“We’re somewhere in between (where they were last year and where they want to be in terms of strikeouts). But I think we’re still a good offense.’’

 

–Center fielder Coco Crisp missed his second successive start Sunday thanks to a groin injury, but he was noticeably improved from Saturday. He might play Monday. “It will be a game-time decision,’’ Melvin said. “There’s a chance. He’s feeling better, but there are  no guarantees.’’

 

–Injured infielder Adam Rosales may be close to coming off the disabled list and going out on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

Rosales, sidelined by sore ribs, has been taking batting practice before games over the weekend, and manager Bob Melvin said Rosales will be ready to play once he can play defense without pain.

“He needs to turn the double play and make an aggressive throw,’’ Melvin said. “That’s how he hurt it in the first place.’’

 

–Josh Donaldson had built his one-struggling average up from the depth of .120 to .277 with five consecutive multiple-hit games, but that streak came to an end Sunday.

Still, Donaldson said he’s feeling better at the plate and his manager said the third baseman has been one of the vital cogs in the A’s offense.

 

–Brandon Moss is going in the other direction.

The first baseman went 0-for-2 with a walk Sunday and his hitless streak has stretched to 16 at-bats.

That’s one at-bat shy of his career longest hitless streak of 0-for-17, which ran from September 10-29, 2010 when he was with the Pirates.

 

–Melvin said that shortstop Hiro Nakajima, slowed by a late spring hamstring injury, will not be heading out on an injury rehab assignment as quickly as Rosales.

“Rosales is further along than Hiro,’’ the manager said before the game.

The A’s want to see Nakajima be able to make full-out sprints and to be able to break from side-to-side on defense before they start his clock on the injury rehabilitation assignment.