If Prince Fielder keeps pounding the ball the way he has and Anibal Sanchez pitches like he did in his first two outings, the Detroit Tigers would appear to be in good shape to start their nine-game West Coast trip off on a positive note.
Both look to help the Tigers build on their latest victory in the decisive series finale against the banged-up Oakland Athletics on Sunday.Less than 24 hours after Detroit (6-5) blew a 3-0 lead in a 4-3, 12-inning loss, the Tigers homered three times and got six solid innings from ace Justin Verlander to snap Oakland's nine-game winning streak with a 7-3 victory Saturday.Fielder homered for the second straight game and Torii Hunter hit his first for the Tigers, who did not let the A's (9-3) rally after building a 7-1 lead."Obviously they're a team that comes back and they play hard the whole game," Fielder said. "Any time you have a lead you definitely want to keep it against them, especially in the late innings, because you never know what's going to happen."Fielder went 2 for 12 with an RBI in the first three games of the season but is 15 for 27 (.556) with four homers and 17 RBIs while hitting safely in the last eight. Including last postseason, he's batting .529 (9 for 17) with three home runs and six RBIs in four games versus Oakland."I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that he's got a good chance to win the MVP in this league," Verlander said. "He's definitely got the talent to do it and everybody knows he can."Sanchez (1-0, 1.50 ERA), meanwhile, has allowed two runs, seven hits and struck out 13 in 12 innings of his first two starts. Both runs came in seven innings of a 7-3 win over Toronto on Tuesday.The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA versus Oakland, but allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings of Detroit's 2-0 loss in Game 3 of the AL division series in October.Oakland outfielder Seth Smith is 7 for 15 (.467) with three homers and a double against Sanchez, and had two hits Saturday. Normally the team's designated hitter, Smith could see more time in the outfield as Coco Crisp deals with a groin injury suffered Friday and Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his hand.Smith is 13 for 26 (.500) with a homer and six RBIs in eight games this season.Oakland manager Bob Melvin does not expect Crisp to need a DL stint like Cespedes."We want to make sure (Cespedes) is 100 percent healthy when he comes back," Melvin said. "We're not looking at surgery, so in that regard we're fortunate."Melvin hands the ball to Jarrod Parker (0-1, 6.48), who including the postseason, is 0-3 with a 3.93 ERA against the Tigers.The right-hander allowed two runs, nine hits and walked three for the second straight start in 3 1/3 innings of a 9-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday."We haven't seen that in a while and missing by, at times, wide margins, which he doesn't normally do either," Melvin told the Athletics' official website.