Athletics vs. Tigers preview
Season series: Athletics won 4-3.
Detroit Tigers (93-69): Detroit won the A.L. Central by one game over Cleveland, but that slim margin was deceiving. The Tigers were in control from mid-August on. … Victor Martinez hit .361 after the All-Star break and Prince Fielder batted .337 in September. … The bullpen was a work in progress early, but Joaquin Benoit has performed well as the closer, and Drew Smyly has been terrific for the most part. Hard-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon is unlikely to pitch because of elbow problems. … Max Scherzer was baseball’s lone 20-game winner, and the Tigers look to have the same excellent depth in their rotation as they did when they won the A.L. pennant last year. … The Tigers have not won the World Series since 1984.
Oakland Athletics (96-66): A year after surprising almost everyone with a torrid finish to win the A.L. West title, the low-budget A’s repeated as division champs over high-priced Texas and the Los Angeles Angels. … Oakland was the only team to post a winning record each month, capped by a 19-8 September. … The A’s found their power stroke in the second half, led by Brandon Moss and Coco Crisp. Oakland hit a major league-leading 88 HRs after the All-Star break, including 74 over the final 49 games. … The A’s got strong pitching all year, with five 10-game winners in the rotation and a deep bullpen. … Bartolo Colon is expected to pitch Game 1 after missing the playoffs last year due to a drug suspension. … The A’s held opponents to an A.L.-low .299 OBP – their best mark since 1972. They allowed an A.L.-low 428 walks with an Oakland-record 1,183 Ks.
Watch for: Yoenis Cespedes’ shoulder. The A’s slugger was slowed late in the regular season by tendinitis in his right shoulder that the A’s hope will be healed by the time off. Despite having his average drop more than 50 points in his second season, Cespedes is still one of Oakland’s most dangerous bats and needs to be in the lineup for the A’s. Oakland has played at a .632 clip when Cespedes has been in the lineup the past two years.