Rick Porcello tries to bounce back from one of the worst starts of his career on Thursday when the Detroit Tigers complete a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum.
Porcello's seven wins are among the league leaders, but he was hammered by the Texas Rangers on Saturday to the tune of eight runs and 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, dropping him to 7-2 on the year, while ballooning his ERA nearly a run to 3.88.
"I think last start I just left too much stuff over the plate and didn't pitch ahead and just didn't have them on their heels enough," Porcello said Wednesday. "Tomorrow, being able to execute pitches and hit spots and change it up is something that's going to be key."
Porcello is 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA in eight career starts against Oakland.
Oakland, meanwhile, will counter with an impressive hurler of its own in righty Jesse Chavez, who is 4-2 with a 2.62 ERA. Chavez has allowed just two runs in each of his last three starts, but he's lasted no more than 5 1/3 innings in his two most recent outings and lost to Toronto his last time out.
"The last two starts, they've just been fouling off pitches and I haven't been making good 0-2 pitches, which has prolonged the at-bats, and that kind of hurts the pitch count a little bit," Chavez said. "So I think that's just the big key for me, don't prolong an at-bat. Get three pitches or less, or pick the time to choose to nibble. But other than that, just three pitches or less to each hitter, and try to outlast the other starter. That's my only goal."
This will be Chavez's first-ever start versus the Tigers, but he has faced them seven times out of the bullpen without recording a decision, despite allowing 16 runs (14 earned) in nine innings of work.
Detroit lost its eighth game in 10 tries in stunning fashion on Wednesday, as Anibal Sanchez blanked Oakland over eight innings and was two outs away from spinning a shutout before the A's rallied for a dramatic 3-1 victory on Josh Donaldson's three-run homer off Joe Nathan.
Sanchez retired nine straight prior to surrendering a one-out double to Coco Crisp in the ninth frame.
Brad Ausmus went to the bullpen with Sanchez's pitch count at 111, and Nathan (2-1) was greeted by a single off the bat of John Jaso, whose liner to third glanced off the glove of Nick Castellanos.
"If Nick catches that ball, maybe it's a different inning," Ausmus said.
Donaldson followed up with a no-doubter into the left-field seats, and the A's celebrated just their second win in seven games.
The walk-off homer made a winner of Scott Kazmir (6-2), who went the distance for the second time in his career. He struck out eight, did not allow a walk and scattered five hits other than Torii Hunter's home run in the fourth.
"It seemed like (Sanchez) and I were going pitch for pitch," Kazmir said.
Of course, these two teams have met the last two years in the ALDS with Detroit winning each series. Oakland, though, was 4-3 in the regular season against the Tigers a year ago.