Detroit — In last season’s American League Division Series, the Tigers lost Games 3 and 4 in Oakland before Justin Verlander’s complete-game shutout helped them take the deciding Game 5.
This season, the series format has switched, with the first two games in Oakland, two in Detroit and a potential winner-take-all finale back in Oakland.
The Tigers achieved their goal of getting a split in the first two games at Oakland, but with an offensive power outage — 17 scoreless innings — there’s a bit of an odd feeling coming home for Game 3 because of the missed opportunity to take both games on the road.
“We were awful disappointed last night,” Leyland said Sunday. “It was a great game and we only had a couple of shots. They ended up winning that game.”
Even though the Tigers still have the chance to wrap up the series with a pair of victories at home, Leyland made sure to look at the bright side of what they did accomplish.
“It’s like I told the coaches afterward: I said, ‘Well, you know, we did come on the road and get a split. So let’s not be too disappointed.’ ”
The odd feelings, Leyland said, came from the fact that the game was so close and both Verlander and A’s rookie Sonny Gray pitched impressively and left the outcome hanging in the balance in the ninth inning.
“I think it was just one of those games where we were disappointed because we didn’t score a run and it was 1-0. If we’d got beat 5-1, I think everybody would have that attitude: ‘Well, we went out here, we got the split. We’re going home. Let’s see what we can do.’
“But because it was such a tough game, an emotional game, and a draining game, I think we were a little more disappointed.”
With a short series, each game becomes more crucial, but Game 3 starter Anibal Sanchez said he isn’t looking at the series as a whole; rather, he’s just taking each game as it comes.
“In a short series, it’s a challenge. You have to win. You don’t have to think about it,” Sanchez said. “I always say in the playoffs, it’s day by day. We don’t need to think about the whole series. I think (Monday) we’ll need a hit first. We need a key win and a good game tomorrow.”
Case of the Mondays
The Tigers had a quick turnaround with a late Saturday game, an early-morning Sunday flight and an afternoon game today.
But for fans, it’s an unusual Monday day game, which will put some of them in a quandary as to whether to skip work to see the game at Comerica Park.
“It’s a Monday and a lot of people are going to get docked some pay probably because they’re not going to work tomorrow; they’re coming to the game. I hope that’s the case,” Leyland joked. “But it’s going to be exciting — it always is. Our regular-season games are exciting. We get 35,000 to 40,000 people for the regular-season games. This is just a little extra adrenaline I think.”
Around the 'pen
Relief pitcher Jose Veras, who has played a key role in the bullpen down the stretch, hasn’t pitched in the first two games of the series, partly because there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity.
With only three innings of relief — pitched by Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and one batter by Rick Porcello — Leyland has been selective in how he’s used the bullpen.
But he said there aren’t any issues with Veras, who last appeared in a game on Sept. 27 against the Marlins.
“Veras is fine,” Leyland said. “Alburquerque has had kind of a hot hand, so he’s been getting some strikeouts and he kind of had a hot hand and that’s why we went with him.
“But we’ll be using Veras in the series. Absolutely nothing wrong with him. He’s 100 percent and very available.”