The Oakland Athletics are in much better shape than the Detroit Tigers in regards to the postseason race, though that easily could change considering each team's schedule over the final two weeks.
Oakland will face three playoff contenders during a 10-game road trip that begins Tuesday night in Detroit, while the Tigers seemingly have a much easier road ahead.The A's (84-62) lead the AL wild-card race by 4 1/2 games over third-place Los Angeles after Sunday's 9-5 loss to Baltimore, which holds the second wild-card berth.Oakland took two of three from the Orioles and has won eight of 10."We're playing it day to day, but going into this series if you've got a chance to take two of three from a good team like that, you'll take it," manager Bob Melvin said.Oakland hopes for similar results during a grueling trip. After three games at Comerica Park, it meets first-place New York before a four-game set with AL West-leading Texas, which it trails by three games in the division race.The A's will face the Rangers seven times in their final 16 games that will be played without a day off."At this time of year I don't think 16 in a row is going to bother us because every game's going to have the magnitude that it is," Melvin said. "Everybody's looking forward to getting to the park and playing."Especially Detroit (77-69), which has to make up more ground after falling 5-4 to first-place Chicago on Monday, increasing the Tigers' deficit in the AL Central to three games."I certainly don't think this thing is anywhere near over, but we have to win games," manager Jim Leyland said. "There's plenty of time if you win games. If you don't win games, then you run out of time."The Tigers' schedule seems favorable the rest of the way. After this series, they'll play six games with AL-worst Minnesota and face Kansas City seven times.Leyland, though, isn't about to overlook the surging A's. The teams split a four-game series from May 10-13 in Oakland."They've got outstanding pitching. And they've been getting timely hits," Leyland said. "If you look at their batting averages, it's not like they've got seven guys hitting .310, but they've been very productive. They've done a (great) job."A.J. Griffin has been a major reason A's starting pitchers rank second in the AL with a 3.69 ERA, and the rookie will look to stay hot Tuesday.Griffin (6-0, 1.94 ERA) won his third straight start after tossing eight scoreless innings in Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Angels. The 24-year-old right-hander, who was promoted from Triple-A Sacramento on June 24, has plenty of support from his manager."That's probably as good as we've seen him," Melvin said. "He's got a lot of confidence and he's been fun to watch."The A's offense, though, likely will get a tough test from major league strikeout leader Max Scherzer, who is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA over his last seven starts.Scherzer (16-6, 3.77), who has struck out 60 in 49 innings during that stretch, gave up one run and fanned seven in six innings of Wednesday's 8-6 win over the White Sox. Pitching in crucial games only seems to motivate him more."I love being in this situation," said Scherzer, who has 220 strikeouts. "I want to have all the marbles on the line in a pennant race, where these games mean everything. I love having the ball in this situation."The right-hander allowed two runs and struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings for a 10-6 win May 10 over Oakland, which has won four of the last six meetings in the Motor City.
In his brief major league career, Oakland starter A.J. Griffin has enjoyed life on the road. The righty is 4-0 in five starts, having posted a 1.15 ERA and a WHIP of 0.99, while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning (31 in 31 1/3 innings). His unblemished record includes victories over high-scoring teams such as the Angels and Blue Jays, so you shouldn't be hesitant to start him against the Tigers.