10/10/12 10:10 PM ET
Lefties shutting down Tigers' big bats
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Odd as it seems for a team with no shortage of dangerous right-handed hitters, the Tigers batted 22 points lower against left-handed pitching (.253) than right-handers (.275) during the regular season. The difference in slugging percentage is more pronounced, with a 39-point gap.
A look through the roster at some of their right-handers tells the gaps. Miguel Cabrera hits slightly better for average against right-handers, but more eye-catching, hit just four home runs off lefties in the regular season. Jhonny Peralta batted just .214 off lefties this year as part of his struggling season at the plate, though he knocked out a hit and a walk off Brett Anderson on Tuesday. Gerald Laird, who catches most games against lefties, hit them for a .204 average, faring far better against righties.
Perhaps the biggest absence, though, was Ryan Raburn's previously respectable lefty-hitting bat. He hit southpaws for better than a .900 OPS in 2009 and 2010, then dropped off a bit last year but still hit .274 with seven home runs off them. He hit just 15-for-91 off them this season before ending the season on the disabled list.
Raburn's struggles, then his eventual loss, was one reason behind the Tigers promoting right-handed-hitting prospect Avisail Garcia at the end of August. He has held his own against lefties since his arrival, though he did not have an extra-base hit.
The good news for the Tigers was that Anderson was the last Oakland lefty starter they are set to face, though Sean Doolittle's presence in the bullpen looms large.
Outfielders adjusting to electric atmosphere
OAKLAND -- The outfield fans at the Coliseum have their own reputation: They're a small group, but they're vocal, and they'll interact with players. Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur bought pizzas for a group of them in April.
There was no such interaction Tuesday. There was just a roar, and none of the Tigers outfielders could make out what anyone was saying. That says plenty about the difference between a typical A's crowd and the huge crowds they've been getting lately.
"When you notice individual people the most is when there's not many people at the game," said Andy Dirks, who started in left field Tuesday before moving over to right for Game 4 on Wednesday night. "Traditionally, you come here and [there are] 10,000 people, and a lot of them sitting behind home plate, and you'll always have a hundred people behind you. And there are always a few guys you can hear.
"When the crowd is going, it's like a constant noise. You can't pick out what people are saying, and that's a big difference. That's why I think I enjoy it more. You don't have to sit and get ragged on. ... Traditionally, you've got five guys behind you talking to you the whole game. But not in this situation."
Pretty much every Tigers player noted how loud the crowd was for Game 3. A few of them said it wasn't a surprise, that they expected a playoff atmosphere.
Manager Jim Leyland acknowledged the atmosphere the crowd created, but downplayed any impact. The Tigers didn't take two from the A's in Detroit, he said, because of the crowd.
"Well, I think you're seeing the atmosphere in Detroit, atmosphere in Oakland," Leyland said Tuesday night. "If you look around, all the teams have great atmosphere at this time of the year. Cincinnati had the pom-poms going or whatever it was. And [Oakland's] got the yellow towels."
Garcia's development would benefit bottom line
OAKLAND -- It's not difficult to envision Avisail Garcia competing for starts in right field out of Spring Training next year, even if the Tigers add an outfielder for the opposite corner or give fellow top prospect Nick Castellanos a shot as well.
Garcia might not be ready for this type of situation, manager Jim Leyland cautioned, but the Tigers need him. Whether he can take what he has learned during this stretch run and apply it could prove key.
He'll get a chance to apply some lessons this winter when he returns home to Venezuela. While he has played winter ball there the last few offseasons, he has yet to get extensive time at the top level. That could change this year.
If the Tigers could rely on homegrown talent for at least one outfield spot, it would prove huge in an offseason when they have some pay raises due on their pitching staff as well as center fielder Austin Jackson becoming arbitration-eligible.
Leyland's good friend Tony La Russa stopped by his office after Tuesday's loss to say hello and drop off an autographed copy of his latest book. Don't expect Leyland to return the favor, because he has no plans on writing a book when he's done managing."I've had a lot of chances to write a book," Leyland said, "but to be honest with you, I'm not smart enough to write a book. Tony and I, we're totally different in a lot of ways." Also among the notables on hand in Oakland on Tuesday was former Tigers manager Phil Garner, who works with the A's as a special assistant. Though Jose Valverde worked more than three outs in some save situations last October, the Tigers are likely to limit him to an inning this year.