(SportsNetwork.com) - Runs could be at a premium on Monday when the American League Division Series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics shifts to Comerica Park for Game 3.
Detroit, which hasn't scored in 17 innings, will rely on the AL's stingiest pitcher in Anibal Sanchez, who paced the league with a 2.57 ERA. Often overlooked in a rotation that includes 20-game winner Max Scherzer and former Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander, Sanchez was 14-8 this past season.
"When we first got him, he looked fine but really didn't look out of the ordinary too much," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Then as the season went on, I mean, he's got good stuff, throws the ball harder than I thought he would throw it. He has a repertoire of pitches. He can throw anything on any count. I think this guy has some of the better stuff in the American League, in my opinion. He's been terrific for us."
Sanchez was one of the best pitchers in either league over the second half of the season, going 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA after the All-Star break.
"This year, I just tried to keep to the level of those guys," said Sanchez, who was 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.98 WHIP last year in the playoffs. "For me, I've got my job, and every five days, I try at that point, to throw a really good game."
Oakland, meanwhile, will counter with righty Jarrod Parker, who was 12-8 during the year with a 3.97 ERA. At one point Parker went a team-record 19 starts in a row without a loss, going 9-0 in that span with a 2.61 ERA.
Parker, though, struggled toward the end of the season, as he surrendered at least seven runs in two of his last three starts. He also struggled against the Tigers in last year's ALDS and lost both of his starts, while pitching to a 4.26 ERA.
"I think making two postseason starts last year is definitely a benefit for me this year," Parker said Sunday during an off-day news conference at Comerica Park. "I'm going to be able to settle in and slow things down right away. It's not going to be so foreign, I guess. It's just being there in it last year, it's one of those things where you pull from those things. You pull from the last two games, that atmosphere."
Parker will be facing a Tigers' offense, though, that has seemingly disappeared since scoring three runs in the first inning of Game 1.
On Saturday, the A's evened this best-of-five set at a game apiece, as rookie Sonny Gray matched Verlander in a pitching duel, and Oakland squeaked out the game's only run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Stephen Vogt delivered the game-winning single off Rick Porcello to give the A's the 1-0 victory.
The sixth rookie in Oakland history to start a postseason game, Gray piled up nine strikeouts over eight innings. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up four hits and a pair of walks.
"Sonny did one heck of a job," Verlander commented. "He was able to use his angst and energy for a positive and a lot of young guys it works against them. That's why veterans usually seem to do better in postseason pressure. He handled himself like a veteran and it was impressive."
Verlander had 11 strikeouts over his seven-inning effort.
"Runs seem to get tougher to come by when you go deeper and deeper into the game," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You had two starting pitchers that were electric tonight and they were going to put up zeros. They were going to make big pitches when they had to, but it felt like a game that was going to be a battle of attrition."
Detroit superstar Miguel Cabrera, who is playing through groin and abdominal pain, has singled in each of the two games in Oakland and has reached base safely in all 26 of his career postseason games.
"The guy is dangerous regardless, and no matter if he has his legs under him or not," Melvin said. "He hits the ball hard up the middle, as he has both games. And you're always thinking about where he is in the lineup."
Detroit, which lost four of seven games against the A's during the season, has beaten Oakland the last two times these teams have met in the postseason. The A's only win against the Tigers in the playoffs came in the 1972 ALCS, which started a run of three consecutive world titles for Oakland.