Stats & Info: Oakland Athletics

Top Stats to Know: Angels at Athletics

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24

AP Photo/Ben MargotScott Kazmir is having a career year.

The Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics finish off their three-game series on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN) in a dead heat for the AL West crown.

On Saturday, the Athletics beat the Angels to tie them atop the AL West. Here are the top stats to know as these teams battle for the division lead.

AL West race tightens up

On June 21, the Angels were six games behind the Athletics, marking their largest deficit of the season. Since then, Los Angeles has gone 36-19, the best record in the American League in that span (the Nationals have also gone 36-19).

Oakland is just 29-24 in that span. However, the Athletics have dominated the head-to-head matchup this season, winning eight of their 11 meetings, including all five at home.

Sunday night's starters
Angels starter Jered Weaver has the third-most wins (126) and third-most strikeouts (1,362) in franchise history. Only Chuck Finley and Nolan Ryan have more. Weaver has a 3.70 ERA this season, on pace to be his worst since 2009. There’s been a significant dip in his average fastball velocity, down to 86.1 mph from 88.7 in 2009.

Only three qualified pitchers this season have a lower average fastball velocity (minimum 400 fastballs).

Athletics starter Scott Kazmir is having the best season of his career. His ERA (2.73), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.6) and opponent OPS (.608) are all career highs, as are his 14 wins. He’s really taken a step forward in his performance against right-handed hitters.

Kazmir has allowed a .618 OPS to right-handed batters this season, on pace to be the best of his career. The only qualified lefties who have allowed a lower OPS to righties this year are Clayton Kershaw (.556), Chris Sale (.604) and David Price (.617).

Trout struggling
All-Star Mike Trout has had a rough second half of the season thus far. Since the All-Star break, Trout’s batting average is down 81 points, his on-base percentage is down 96 points, and his slugging percentage is down 177 points. Part of the reason could be pitchers are starting to throw him more pitches up in the zone; 43.9 percent of the pitches Trout has seen in the second half have been in the upper half of the zone or higher. In the first half, only 38.7 percent of his pitches were in that location.

Doolittle lights out
Athletics closer Sean Doolittle is having an excellent season. Doolittle has a 16.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio, on pace to rank third in any season by a pitcher with at least 50 innings. No pitcher with a minimum of 50 innings throws strikes at a higher rate than Doolittle (75 percent).

After Sunday night, seven games remain between the Angels and Athletics. The Angels have four of those games at home, but are just 3-3 at home against the Athletics so far this season.

Lester grinds through to win A's debut

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2

AP Photo/Ben MargotJon Lester won his 11th game of the season in his A’s debut.
In his Oakland Athletics debut, Jon Lester was solid enough to earn his 11th win of the season.

Lester allowed three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings for his ninth straight quality start and 17th this season.

The nine consecutive quality starts ties the longest such streak of Lester’s career. He’s 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA during this nine-game stretch.

Lester didn’t go to his curveball much in Saturday’s win, which is a change from his past three starts. He threw just 12 curveballs, one of his lower totals this season. In his previous three starts, he threw an average of nearly 24 curveballs per start. Saturday marked the first time since June 7 that he failed to record a strikeout with his curveball.

Lester was effective Saturday but got the win in large part to the A’s offense breaking out of a season-worst slump. The A’s entered the game scoreless in their past 16 innings and saw the streak reach 20 before they posted an eight-run fifth inning, which tied their season high for runs in an inning. The A’s had also posted an eight-run inning against the Cleveland Indians on May 16.

During the outburst, the A’s tallied eight hits, only one of which went for extra bases (Derek Norris’ double to lead off the inning).

The 20-inning scoreless streak was the longest of the season for MLB’s best offense.

Oakland's Fourth of July Fireworks

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
The Oakland A’s pulled off a stunning trade Friday night reportedly acquiring pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs for a package including shortstop Addison Russell, the third-ranked prospect in baseball at the beginning of the season, according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

That gives the Athletics, already owners of the best record in baseball and lowest ERA in the American League, arguably the most formidable rotation in the game, featuring five of the top 34 qualifiers for the ERA title.

Support for Samardzija

Samardzija lost seven of nine decisions for the Cubs this season despite having an ERA of 2.83 that ranks him 10th in the NL among qualifiers. That’s mainly because the Cubs were giving him just 2.41 runs of support on offense, which ranked 49 of those same 50 qualifiers in the Senior Circuit.

Offensive firepower shouldn’t be as much of a problem in the East Bay as it was on the North Side. In fact, the A’s have the highest-scoring offense in baseball, averaging 5.0 runs per contest, a full run more than the 21st-ranked Cubs

Don’t Forget about Hammel

Jason Hammel’s ninth major league season has been his best by far. The former Ray, Rockie, Oriole (and now Cub) has career-bests in ERA (2.98), K/9 (8.6), WHIP (1.02) and Opp BA (.222).

He returns to the AL where he has a career ERA of 5.00 in five seasons, but has always pitched well in Oakland. He’s 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five games (two starts) in his new home stadium.

Could be a Cubs Coup

With the acquisition of Russell, Chicago now has six of the top 71 position prospects according to Law’s preseason ranks. Russell was Oakland’s only prospect ranked in the top 100.

Moss continuing to excel and improve

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
Brandon Moss has done a couple of things to increase his value to the Oakland Athletics this season. Hitting two home runs in a win at Yankee Stadium was just the latest of those.

Moss’ second home run, which he hit in the 10th inning, gave the Athletics a lead in a game they would win 5-2. Moss now has the last two multi-homer games by an Athletics player at Yankee Stadium. He had one last season as well.

Extra-inning go-ahead homers by the Athletics at Yankee Stadium are a regular occurrence. They’ve hit three in the last four seasons, with the others coming from Coco Crisp (2011) and Jonny Gomes (2012).

Moss’ strength is hooking the ball on the outer half of the plate, and it's no surprise that both of his home runs came on outer-half pitches on Tuesday.

Moss’ 30 home runs against outer-half pitches from right-handed pitchers in the last two seasons are second most in baseball. Only Chris Davis (32) has more.

Moss is now halfway to his 2013 home-run total of 30 in only 55 games. He’s benefited from a decreased strikeout rate while keeping his other numbers steady, or bettering them.

This didn’t come into play on Tuesday, but the primary reason for this is Moss’ improvement against left-handed pitching (and he could see a lefty if he starts on Wednesday, as the Yankees will start Vidal Nuno).

Moss is 12-for-35 with three homers against lefties after going 16-for-80 with 38 strikeouts and four home runs last season.

The other big improvement for Moss this season has come in the field. Last season, he finished with a combined -15 Defensive Runs Saved, with much of that damage coming at first base (-12).

This season, he’s rated average at each position, and going from sub-par to average is a notable jump.

The end result is that his night on Tuesday should push his Wins Above Replacement past what it was in 2013 (2.2), with quite a long ways to go.

Gray among best since his debut

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
Sonny Gray continues to impress.

Gray outpitched Yu Darvish and earned his first career shutout, beating the Texas Rangers 4-0 on Monday night.

Gray is the first Oakland Athletics pitcher to shut out the Rangers since (new "Baseball Tonight" analyst) Dallas Braden in 2010.

His shutout lowered the team's ERA to an AL-best 2.85. The Athletics moved one game ahead of the Rangers for the AL West lead.

Gray lowered his career ERA to 2.31. That rates best in the American League since the date of his major league debut (July 10).

The pitcher who entered the day with the best ERA in the league was Gray’s mound opponent on Monday, Darvish.

How he won
The fastball and curveball accounted for 97 of Gray’s 108 pitches, and each fared very well. Gray got 13 outs with his heater and 12 outs with his hook, yielding only two baserunners with each pitch.
Sonny Gray

Gray threw 28 of his 37 curveballs for strikes. His 76 percent strike rate with that pitch was the best in a game for his career.

Gray also excelled at finishing off Rangers hitters, who were 0-for-12 with a walk against him in two-strike counts. Eight of those outs came against his curveball.

The curveball has been the putaway pitch for Gray since his debut. His 63 strikeouts with it rank tied with Ivan Nova for third most in the majors since his recall, trailing only A.J. Burnett's 98 and Adam Wainwright's 73.

View from the other side: Darvish rocked
Darvish allowed four runs and six hits in 3⅓ innings, the shortest start of his major league career.

Darvish has lost seven straight decisions against the Athletics since winning his first start against them. He’s 1-7 with a 4.73 ERA against the Athletics, 29-12 with a 3.09 ERA against everyone else.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Rangers

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
The Texas Rangers host the Oakland Athletics on Monday night at 8 ET on ESPN.

The Rangers swept the A’s last week in a three-game series in Oakland, but which team’s ace will reign supreme tonight, Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray? Below is a look at the matchup.

Yu Darvish to the rescue
The Rangers currently have 11 players on the disabled list, including four starting pitchers. No other team has more than seven players on the DL.

The Rangers ranked in the top 10 in team ERA last season but rank 18th so far this season despite Martin Perez (1.42) and Darvish (1.61) ranking first and third in ERA in the American League.

Darvish has found success throughout his major league career, but has gotten better each season with improved control.

Darvish’s 2014 season would look even better had it not been for last week’s start against the Athletics, however.

Darvish took a no-decision in Texas’ 4-3 win over Oakland on April 21. In Darvish’s first three starts of the season, he allowed a combined two earned runs and four walks, and he gave up no more than seven hits in any of those games. Against the A’s, Darvish allowed three earned runs, four walks and eight hits.

It was the first game all season that he struggled to locate his fastball. Darvish threw 52 fastballs that game, but threw a season-low 50 percent for strikes. When the A’s did swing against the heat, they hit .429 with a home run (Brandon Moss).

Darvish held opponents to a .154 average against his fastball in his first three starts of the season.

Sonny Gray is A-OK
Gray has made 15 starts in his career, posting a 2.64 ERA and striking out 92 batters. Only Tim Hudson had more strikeouts for the Athletics in his first 15 career starts.

Gray is 3-1 this season, with his only loss coming against the Rangers, a 3-0 setback during which Gray struggled with his control.

Only 46 percent of Gray’s pitches in the game were thrown in the strike zone. This led to a season-high four walks for Gray, but he also generated five strikeouts on pitches out of the zone.

The Rangers were able to take advantage when Gray threw one in the strike zone, slugging .563 on those pitches, the highest allowed by Gray this season.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Angels

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels face off in part two of an ESPN doubleheader Monday night (read about part one here). Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Oakland’s economical pitching
The Athletics are going with a very low-budget starting rotation this season as they’ve spent only $11.3 million on their five starters. Only the Marlins ($3.2 million) have spent less.

Scott Kazmir accounts for $9 million of the starting pitching budget. The next highest paid starter, Jesse Chavez ($775,000), starts Monday night.

Chavez, a 42nd-round pick in 2002, is now pitching for his seventh major league team, and he seems to have found a groove early this season.

In 13 innings pitched, Chavez has posted a 1.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts and only two walks (6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio). He has done most of the damage with his cutter.

Chavez has thrown his cutter on nearly 37 percent of his pitches, second only to Travis Wood (44 percent, min. 2 starts). Opponents have gone 4-for-24 (.174) against the pitch with eight strikeouts and no extra-base hits in 2014. The Angels have struggled against cutters so far this season, batting .160 against those pitches.

A more aggressive Mike Trout
Mike Trout mentioned this past offseason he wanted to be more aggressive early in the count. While the sample is small, so far he’s staying true to his word.

Trout has increased his swing percentage on the first pitch by 47 percent, which has led to him doubling his chase percentage against the first pitch as well.

Trout hasn’t put many of these balls in play (just 1-for-3), but falling behind early hasn’t been a detriment. Trout is batting .346 this season after falling behind in the count 0-1.

Josh Donaldson’s early slump
Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .222 through the first dozen games. The biggest difference for Donaldson is in his strikeout and walk totals. He’s struck out 15 times and walked only once this season, after 110 strikeouts and 76 walks in 2013.

An early issue for Donaldson has been the inside pitch. He’s 3-for-22 (.136) against pitches thrown to the inner third of the plate or off the inside corner this season, after hitting .330 against those pitches last season.

Hector Santiago’s fastball a concern
Hector Santiago pitches tonight for the Angels. He has posted a 7.71 ERA in his first two starts, both losses.

Opponents have posted a .346/.485/.577 slash line against Santiago’s fastball this season, which is compounded by Santiago throwing the pitch 74 percent of the time. Against Santiago’s other pitches opponents have hit .250 with a .500 OPS.

Top stats to know: For openers ...

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30

Getty Images, AP PhotoAmong those worth watching on Opening Day are Stephen Strasburg and Albert Pujols.
Three teams have had their Opening Day so far, but the baseball season really gets going Monday with a near-full slate.

Here are some of the statistical storylines we'll be keeping an eye on.

Usually a good day for the Mets
The New York Mets haven’t had a winning record since the 2008 season, but Opening Day is usually a season highlight for them.

The Mets’ 34-18 Opening-Day record is the best of any team.

They’ll face a Washington Nationals team that was picked by 12 experts to win the World Series and that has the consensus favorite for MVP in Bryce Harper (by comparison, none of the experts have the Mets even making the playoffs).

The Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg, who was 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five spring-training starts. He’s allowed one run in 14 innings in two previous Opening Day starts.

Cano’s debut comes in best pitching matchup of day
Robinson Cano makes his Seattle Mariners debut in Anaheim (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2) against the Angels.

Cano has contributed 34.3 Wins Above Replacement over the last five seasons, the most in baseball in that span.

Jered Weaver will be charged with stopping Cano, who is 12 for 32 against the Angels ace in his career. Weaver has won his last three Opening Day decisions and has a 1.93 ERA in five Opening-Day starts.

Felix Hernandez has started all but one of those openers for Seattle (this will be his sixth straight). He’s 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA on Opening Day (five of the six starts came against the Oakland Athletics)

The Mariners have won seven straight Opening Day games. With the Diamondbacks losing their opener earlier this season, the Mariners’ Opening Day winning streak is the longest current one in the majors.
Milestone Watch: Most Opening Day HR
Opening Day in Chicago means a matchup of the two teams at the bottom in the AL Central last year with the Twins facing the White Sox.

White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn will be trying to set the major-league record for most Opening-Day home runs. Dunn’s eight are tied for the most all-time with Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr.

In terms of season milestones, the most notable one on the horizon is that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is eight home runs from 500 for his career.

Pujols would become the fourth player to hit 500 home runs within his first 14 seasons, joining Mark McGwire (522), Alex Rodriguez (518) and Willie Mays (505).

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Athletics are the first team to lose nine straight season openers since the Atlanta Braves did from 1972 to 1980. No team has lost 10 straight.

Oakland has been beset by pitching injuries, most notably to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, and will start rookie Sonny Gray, the ninth pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Athletics in the last nine seasons.

Gray, who impressed in last year’s postseason, will be making his 11th career start.

That won’t be the fewest of anyone on Monday. The Rangers, also beset by injuries, will start Tanner Scheppers against the Philadelphia Phillies. Scheppers will be the first pitcher to make his first start in a season opener since Fernando Valenzuela for the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tuesday's priority: Upgrade bullpen, 'd'

December, 3, 2013
It was a very, very busy Tuesday in baseball and the priorities for the teams involved in making moves revolved around two areas- relief pitching and defense.

The Tigers made the biggest transaction of the day so far, signing free agent closer Joe Nathan to a two-year contract.

Nathan is the active leader in saves with 341, tied with Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers for 10th most all-time. Nathan comes off a season in which he had a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves. His four seasons with 43 or more saves rank tied for third-most all-time.

The upgrade in putting Nathan as closer ahead of Joaquin Benoit is tied to the history of each with regards to giving up home runs.

Benoit has allowed a homer every 30 at-bats over the last three seasons. Nathan has allowed one every 39 at-bats.

Athletics continue remake with Gregerson
The Athletics traded Seth Smith to the Padres for middle-relief specialist Luke Gregerson.

Gregerson brings durability, having made 70 or more appearances in four of the last five seasons. His 132 holds in that span are by far the most in the majors.

Gregerson succeeds despite not throwing that hard. His average fastball is 89 mph. He’s thrown nearly 1,800 sliders over the last three seasons. The only reliever to throw more is Carlos Marmol.

Gregerson will pair with Jim Johnson to form a new back end of the Athletics bullpen.

Bell will toll for Rays
Heath Bell will join his fourth team in as many seasons, as he’s headed to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade.

After three straight 40-save seasons, Bell has sputtered the last two years with the Marlins and Diamondbacks.

Bell did have 72 strikeouts and 16 walks last season, a ratio comparable to what the Rays got from their closer, Fernando Rodney, in 2012.

But the focus for the Rays will be on keeping Bell’s homer total down. He yielded 12 in 65 2/3 innings, or two more than he allowed in nearly 200 innings of work from 2010 to 2012.

Gentry goes to the Athletics
The Athletics obtained Craig Gentry from the Texas Rangers and could plug him into their outfield in a number of ways.

His best spot from a defensive perspective is centerfield. Gentry ranks 29th in innings at that position over the last three seasons, but rates tied for third with 32 Defensive Runs Saved in that same span.

Gentry doesn’t hit for power but does have a .365 on-base percentage over the last three seasons.

He also can net extra bases after reaching, as he’s 55 for 65 in stolen base tries over the last three seasons (an 85 percent success rate that rates 11th-best among those with 40 or more steals).

Hanigan to the Rays
A bunch of catchers changed teams, with A.J. Pierzynski signing with the Red Sox and Jarrod Saltalamacchia subsequently heading to the Marlins.

Those were offensive-minded moves in each case (as noted in the chart at right), but the Rays snuck in and made a prominent move for their defense.

The trade with the Reds for Ryan Hanigan gives the Rays a second catcher highly regarded for his pitch-framing (as noted in this Grantland piece) and throwing arm.

Opponents have 52 steals against Hanigan and have been caught 38 times by him (they were also caught nine times by pitchers) over the last two seasons. The 58 percent steal success rate was the second-lowest against a catcher, behind only the 56 percent success rate against Yadier Molina.

Hanigan hit only .198 last season, but he walked more than he struck out for the fifth time in the five seasons in which he’s had at least 200 plate appearances. He had an on-base percentage of .350 or better in each season from 2009 to 2012.

Verlander gets an A for his accolades

October, 11, 2013
Justin Verlander owns the Oakland Athletics. Miguel Cabrera used to own the inside of the plate -- until recently.

For one night, those two came together to combine on a win that pushed their team, the Detroit Tigers, into the American League Championship Series for the third straight year. They're the first AL team to reach three straight ALCS' since the Yankees did so from 1998 to 2001.

Verlander untouchable
Verlander is now 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA against the Athletics in the postseason (4-0, 0.29 ERA in five starts against them). He’s 3-4 with a 5.14 ERA against all other postseason foes.

Verlander has thrown 30 consecutive scoreless innings against the Athletics in postseason play. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is a record for one pitcher against one team. The previous mark was 28 innings by Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants against the Athletics from 1905 to 1911.

Verlander is the second pitcher in major league history with 10 or more strikeouts and no runs allowed in back-to-back postseason games.

The other was Sandy Koufax in Games 5 and 7 of the 1965 World Series.

Verlander is one of four starters with multiple wins in winner-take-all postseason games, along with Bob Gibson, Chris Carpenter and Matt Cain.

He is also the only pitcher to have multiple postseason-clinching wins in which he went at least eight scoreless innings and struck out at least 10. They came in the 2012 and 2013 ALDS against the Athletics.

Only two other pitchers have one such win: Orval Overall for the 1908 Cubs against the Tigers and Sandy Koufax for the 1965 Dodgers against the Twins.

Verlander’s five postseason games with at least 10 strikeouts tie the record for most all-time. He shares the mark with Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson and Cliff Lee.

Verlander's no-hit bid went 6 2/3 innings, the longest no-hit bid in a winner-take-all game in postseason history.

The previous longest was 5 2/3 innings by Ralph Terry for the New York Yankees against the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series.

It's the longest no-hit AND perfect-game bids (5 1/3 innings) in Tigers postseason history.

How he won
Verlander was lights-out, getting 24 swings and misses, which matched his most in any start over the last five seasons. He got 18 swings and misses with his fastball, his most in any start over the last five seasons.

That’s tied for the most missed swings against a fastball in a postseason start in that span, matching the 18 by Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants against the Atlanta Braves in 2010.

Afterward, Verlander said that he had his best changeup in a while. He was right.

Verlander held Athletics left-handed hitters to 1-for-20 in this game, helped by his throwing 12 of 17 changeups for strikes. His 71 percent strike rate was his best against lefties with that pitch in nearly two months.

Grade A
Verlander had a Bill James Game Score of 87 in this win, the third-best by any pitcher in a winner-take-all postseason game.

The only pitchers better are Verlander himself, who scored an 89 against the Athletics in Game 5 of last year’s ALDS, and Koufax for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series.

Cabrera finally gets ahold of one
If you read the Stats & Info preview for this game, you’d have known just how badly Cabrera was struggling against pitches thrown between where he stood in the batter’s box and the midpoint of home plate (i.e., the inner half).

It only took one pitch for Cabrera to erase that, with his first home run since September 17. His two-run shot gave him 21 RBIs with the Tigers in postseason play. He’s one shy of the franchise record, set by Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, who didn’t have the benefit of playing in an LDS or LCS.

Rookie pitchers, of which Athletics starter Sonny Gray is one, have now lost their last six winner-take-all postseason games.

Stat of the Night
The Athletics have lost six straight winner-take-all postseason games. That’s the longest such losing streak in postseason history.

Stats to know: Tigers vs. Athletics (Game 5)

October, 10, 2013

Getty ImagesJustin Verlander (left) and Sonny Gray (right) struck out at least 9 and allowed zero runs in Game 2.
The Detroit Tigers visit the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the ALDS tonight (8:07 ET/ESPN Radio). Detroit is 2-0 in ALDS Game 5s (2011 and '12) and is looking to advance to the ALCS for the third straight season (would be first team to do that since the 1998-2001 New York Yankees).

Oakland is 0-5 all-time in ALDS Game 5s and will be looking to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2006. The A’s were eliminated by the Tigers in their past two trips to the postseason (2006, 2012).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Oakland is 1-11 since 2000 in games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent from a postseason series.

Let’s take a look at some other storylines for this game.

History Lesson
This will be the seventh time that two teams have met in a winner-take-all postseason game in consecutive years.

The last time it happened, the Boston Red Sox and Yankees met in consecutive Game 7s of the ALCS in 2003 and 2004.

The last team to win the first meeting and the rematch was the Yankees, who beat the Athletics in consecutive ALDS Game 5s in 2000 and 2001.

The team that won the first winner-take-all won the rematch three times and lost the rematch three times in the first six instances.

Justin Verlander stats to know
Verlander has thrown three straight scoreless starts dating back to the regular season, with 33 strikeouts in 19 innings, including 11 in the Game 2 duel in Oakland.

He has faced Oakland three times in the ALDS in the past two seasons, going 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA. In those 23 innings pitched, he’s struck out 33 and walked six while allowing just 11 hits.

In his Game 2 start against Oakland, Verlander relied on his fastball and curveball to put hitters away. He threw 20 fastballs and 16 curveballs among his 42 two-strike pitches, his second-highest combined percentage (85.7) with those pitches this season. All 11 of his strikeouts came on those pitches.

Sonny Gray stats to know
Gray’s eight scoreless innings in Game 2 against the Tigers marked the fourth time that a starter has thrown eight scoreless frames in the 67 postseason games the Tigers have played since 1968. The other three are Bob Gibson (1968 Cardinals), Blue Moon Odom (1972 Athletics) and Chris Carpenter (2006 Cardinals).

Like Verlander, Gray relied on his fastball and curveball in Game 2. All but two of his 111 pitches were fastballs (80) or curveballs (29). That was his second-highest combined percentage (98.2) with those pitches in 11 career starts.

Nineteen of the 24 outs Gray recorded were via strikeout (nine) or groundout (10). None of his 10 groundouts came on fastballs, and five of his nine strikeouts came on his curve.

In that game, Gray became the second rookie on postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings and nine strikeouts in his first career postseason start, joining the Orioles’ Mike Boddicker in 1983. Boddicker had 27 career regular season starts under his belt while Gray had just 10.

The Big Bats: Cespedes and Cabrera
The big hitters for each team, Yoenis Cespedes and Miguel Cabrera, have had contrasting performances with regards to a specific pitch location.

Cespedes is 7-for-18 in the series, with the bulk of that damage (five hits, including a homer) coming on pitches on the inner half of the plate.

Meanwhile Cabrera, who is 4-for-16 in the series and is battling injuries, has struggled to drive the inner-half pitches that he was crushing earlier this season.

Through the end of August, Cabrera had a .401 batting average and 27 home runs against pitches thrown to the inner half of the plate or off the inside corner.

But since the start of September, Cabrera has only 10 singles against such pitches, against which he is hitting .244. He has two hits versus such pitches in this series, both infield singles.

Justin Havens also contributed to this article.

How he lost: Anibal Sanchez vs Athletics

October, 7, 2013

Anibal Sanchez was done in by Oakland's left-handed hitters.

What went wrong for Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez in Game 3 of the ALDS?

Sanchez, who posted an AL-best 2.57 ERA this season, was roughed up for six runs and three home runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched. He had allowed a total of seven runs in his previous five starts (over a combined 30 2/3 innings pitched) and did not have a start all season in which he allowed multiple homers.

Pitch Location
Sanchez invited trouble with his pitch location. Of his 101 pitches, 49 were in the upper-half of the strike zone or above. That led to four Athletics hits, including the homers by Brandon Moss and Seth Smith in the 5th inning.

During a typical regular-season start, Sanchez threw about 41 of every 100 pitches to that area.

Unable to finish
The Moss home run was one of two that Sanchez allowed with a two-strike count on Monday (the other being by Josh Reddick.

Sanchez had only allowed three two-strike homers during the regular season and had only one start in which he allowed multiple two-strike homers in his career (August 16, 2011 against the Colorado Rockies) prior to Monday.

An ineffective changeup
One of the reasons that Sanchez pitched so well in the 2012 postseason was that his secondary pitches were very effective. In his ALCS win over the Yankees and World Series start against the Giants, Sanchez had a great changeup, netting 10 outs with the pitch without allowing a hit.

On Monday, Sanchez got eight swings and misses against that pitch, but allowed three hits with it. He paid the price for the hanger he threw Moss, which ended up hooked into the right field bleachers.

Sanchez had allowed only one home run with his changeup in his last 14 starts.

Did you know?
The Tigers had not had a starter allow at least six runs while retiring 13 batters or fewer since June 25, when Rick Porcello got roughed up for seven runs by the Angels.

They only had five such starts all season, tied with the Cardinals for the second fewest in the majors. Only the Rays, with four, had fewer.

Justin Havens also contributed to this post.

Vogt's clutch hit breaks scoreless tie

October, 6, 2013
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsStephen Vogt’s first career postseason hit was a walk-off hit.
Stephen Vogt only had 34 career regular-season hits. Appearing in his first postseason, he had no postseason hits.

But his first career postseason hit was quite the notable one, as his RBI single gave the Oakland Athletics a 1-0 walk-off win to tie their Division Series with the Detroit Tigers at 1-1.

Vogt is the first player with a walk-off hit as his first career postseason hit since Carlos Guillen in 2000 for the Seattle Mariners against the Chicago White Sox, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Vogt's 34 career regular-season hits are the second-fewest by any player at the time of a postseason walk-off hit. The only player with fewer was George Vukovich, who had 23 career regular-season hits at the time of his walk-off, in the 1981 NLDS for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Montreal Expos.

Vogt is the seventh player in MLB postseason history with a walk-off hit to break a scoreless tie. The last player to do so was Jeff Kent for the Houston Astros in the 2004 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Athletics are the eighth team in MLB postseason history with a walk-off win to break a scoreless tie (in addition to the seven hits listed in the chart on the right, the Astros won with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 1980 NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies).

The Athletics' 1-0 walk-off win was the first 1-0 walk-off win in an MLB postseason game since Gene Larkin's walk-off single for the Minnesota Twins to win the 1991 World Series.

Don’t forget about the pitching
There was a reason why the game was scoreless in the ninth inning -- great pitching.

Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters in seven innings, while Sonny Gray struck out nine in eight innings.

Verlander and Max Scherzer are the first pair of teammates in postseason history with at least 11 strikeouts in back-to-back games.

Gray is the fifth rookie pitcher in postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings in his first career postseason start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Gray is one of two rookie pitchers in history (Mike Boddicker, 1983 White Sox) with at least eight scoreless innings and nine strikeouts in his first career postseason start.

It was the first game in postseason history in which both starters had at least nine strikeouts and no runs allowed.

Scherzer dominates in Tigers win

October, 5, 2013
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMax Scherzer relied heavily on his fastball and changeup in Friday’s win.
Max Scherzer stole the show in Game 1, as the Detroit Tigers ace dominated the Oakland Athletics.

He struck out 11 and allowed three hits in seven innings, becoming the first pitcher with 11 strikeouts and three or fewer hits in a postseason road win since Cliff Lee in 2010. Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens are the only other pitchers to do so in the last 15 postseasons.

Scherzer tied Justin Verlander (three times) for the third-most strikeouts by a Tigers pitcher in a postseason game. Only Joe Coleman (14 in 1972) and Bill Donovan (12 in 1907) have had more than 11 strikeouts among Tigers pitchers.

Those 11 strikeouts are tied for the fourth-most by any pitcher against the Athletics in a postseason game. Only Coleman -- whose 1972 performance listed above came against the A’s -- along with Tom Seaver (12 in 1973) and Jim Palmer (12 in 1973) had more.

Scherzer now has the second-most career strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.5) in MLB postseason history. Only Adam Wainwright (11.6) has more among pitchers with at least five postseason starts.

It was Scherzer’s fastball-changeup combination that powered his success against Oakland.

All but 11 of his 118 pitches were either a fastball or changeup. Six of his strikeouts came via fastball while the other five were with his changeup.

He threw a season-high 35 changeups overall and the A’s were 1-for-11 against the pitch Friday.

As a team, Detroit’s pitchers tallied 16 strikeouts, the most by an American League team in the postseason since 2004, when the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins each had 16 against the New York Yankees.

The only teams to strike out more than 16 in an AL postseason game were the Baltimore Orioles in 1997 (21 vs. Indians) and the Cleveland Indians in 1996 (23 vs. Orioles).

The 16 strikeouts by Tigers pitchers are the most for the Tigers in a postseason game. The 16 strikeouts by Athletics batters are the most for the A's in a postseason game.

Top things to know: Tigers vs Athletics

October, 4, 2013

Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsMax Scherzer has the second lowest road ERA among AL starting pitchers this season.
The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics begin their ALDS tonight (9:37 ET/ESPN Radio) in Oakland. Here are some storylines to follow.

1. This is the fourth all-time meeting in the postseason (1972 ALCS, 2006 ALCS and 2012 ALDS). The Tigers have won nine of the 14 all-time postseason meetings, including seven of the last nine.

Oakland won the regular season series this year, taking four of the seven games, including three of the last four, in which they outscored the Tigers 34-20.

2. These two teams have not had much success in the postseason lately. Detroit has lost four straight postseason games. They have not lost at least five straight since 1907-08, when they lost six in a row. In addition, the Tigers have lost 11 of their last 16 road postseason games.

Oakland comes into this postseason having lost seven of its last nine playoff games.

The A’s have made the playoffs seven times since 2000 (including this year) and only once have they advanced to the ALCS (2006, lost to Detroit).

3. Max Scherzer is 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA in seven postseason appearances (six starts). In his only postseason appearance against the Athletics (Game 4 of the 2012 ALDS), Scherzer went 5⅓ innings, allowing one run while striking out eight in a no-decision.

This season, Scherzer went 9-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 16 road starts. He only allowed more than three earned runs once in his 16 road starts. James Shields is the only AL starter who had a lower ERA away from home (2.07).

4. Bartolo Colon will take the ball for Oakland tonight. He is starting the first game of a postseason series for a third different team (he started twice for Cleveland and once for the Angels).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, five other pitchers made Game 1 starts for three different teams – Roger Clemens (Red Sox, Yankees, Astros), Tommy John (Angels, Dodgers, Yankees), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks, Astros, Mariners), Jack Morris (Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays) and Curt Schilling (Phillies, Red Sox, Diamondbacks).

The only other 40-year-old to start a postseason game for the Athletics was Jack Quinn (46 years old) in the 1929 World Series.

5. What sort of impact will Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder make? The 2012 Triple Crown winner hit over .350 with 43 home runs over the first five months of the season, but all but disappeared in September.

Fielder is hitting .183 (19-for-104) in 28 career postseason games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his average is the third lowest among active players with at least 50 postseason at-bats.

Only Alex Avila (.129) and Nick Swisher (.165) have worse averages.