Detroit chill sure to factor in Game 3
Unfamiliar field conditions expected for critical ALCS matchup
OAKLAND -- From the sunny climes of the East Bay in October, the American League Championship Series moves now to the upper Midwest and an early winter in southeastern Michigan.
You know what they say: "The temperature is the same for both teams." That's because in Detroit over this weekend, there will be so few degrees that everyone will have to share.
Global warming takes a breather as Friday's Detroit forecast calls for rain, snow showers and sleet -- a mixture more normal for Thanksgiving than for mid-October, even in the North Country. Temperatures are expected to plunge into the 30s. (For those of you not fortunate enough to live in the Great Lakes states, temperatures from October through March do not "drop." They "plunge." Temperatures cannot get low enough by merely dropping. So they must plunge.)
Forecasts for the remainder of the weekend are drier, but not warmer. Conventional wisdom calls for the home team to have the advantage in weather such as this, thus giving the edge to the Detroit Tigers over the Oakland Athletics. But come on, the last time the weather was consistently like this in Detroit, it was March. The Tigers were in Lakeland, Fla., at the time.
It's another postseason variable to consider as the ALCS moves to Game 3: Which team can play through the weather? Which team can pretend that the temperature is 70 degrees, even when the actual temperature is half that? Which team can best ignore the climate and get on with the task at hand, which is reaching the World Series?
That's one set of issues for Game 3, Game 4 and possibly even Game 5, if there is one of those. The others are the pitching and the general direction of this series.
The Athletics have decided upon righty Rich Harden for Game 3 after first having Dan Haren in that slot. Harden has indisputably terrific stuff, but he missed much of the season with back and elbow injuries and hasn't pitched in a big-league game since giving up six runs in 3 2/3 innings in the regular-season finale in Anaheim on Oct. 1.
The A's, however, were greatly encouraged by Harden's performance in an Instructional League game on Monday. His Game 3 start would allow him to start in Game 7, if this series gets that far. That kind of consideration alone tells you how highly regarded Harden's potential is.
On the mound for the Tigers in Game 3 will be Kenny Rogers, who did nothing less than transform his postseason reputation with a brilliant performance in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Yankees. The Tigers had considered moving Rogers up in the ALCS rotation, but they then determined that the last start had been such an emotional situation for Rogers that he should rest until Game 3.
Rogers has a 21-7 lifetime record against Oakland. The question with him will be what kind of encore he can produce after what may have been the most significant and emotional start of his life.
The larger question in the series at this point is: Just how resilient are the A's? This is widely regarded as a scrappy, feisty, high-spirited group, but it is one thing to fall behind, 2-0, in a best-of-seven, and it is another to fall behind, 2-0, at your own place in a best-of-seven. All previous eight teams in League Championship Series play that have taken a 2-0 lead on the road have gone on to reach the World Series.
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"It's not just being on the road," A's manager Ken Macha said on Wednesday night. "It's [that] the Tigers are pretty good, see?"
So, it is all uphill climb for the Athletics at this point. They are down two games in the series, they are playing a team that is playing exceptionally well and they are going to Motown, where a large and loyal fan base has been waiting for 22 years for the return of a World Series.
And they will be visiting Michigan not in the Chamber of Commerce October of blue skies and the panorama of autumn colors. They will be visiting Michigan at a time when the sport most suitable for the climate is hockey. But you know the folk wisdom that covers this type of weather: When the going gets tough, the tough dress in layers.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.