Verlander on A’s/Samardzija: “They made that trade for us”
The Oakland Athletics left town on Wednesday having been swept out of Comerica Park. The Tigers were busy with the Rays when the A’s made their move for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
When Justin Verlander heard about the trade later Friday night, he felt the target on their backs. It wasn’t so much about this week, but the last two Octobers.
“I found it very interesting,” Verlander said Saturday. “Really, when I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind. If they want to win a World Series, they’re envisioning that they have to go through us, and even though it’s been two fantastic series, it’s been heartbreaking for them the last two years.”
The Tigers and A’s have met in the Division Series the last two years, with both series going to a winner-take-all Game 5. Both times, Verlander broke Bay Area hearts with dominant performances — a complete-game four-hitter with 11 strikeouts in 2012, then eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts last year. Neither A’s counterpart — Jarrod Parker two years ago, then rookie Sonny Gray last year — delivered a quality start in return.
Oakland has scored one run on Verlander in 31 postseason innings the last two years. With Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, Verlander said, they have others capable of doing the same.
“When you have a team like ours, somebody’s going to go out there and dominate,” Verlander said. “And it just happens the last couple years [against Oakland in Game 5], it’s been me. And I think they felt like they needed that person. Star power in the playoffs goes a long way. Power pitching in the playoffs goes a long way.”
Regardless of the matchups, Verlander said, it’s the concept.
“I think a lot of factors had to do with why they did it,” Verlander said later. “Obviously October’s the main one, not necessarily us but October in general.”
If the regular season ended today, the Tigers and A’s would have to advance to the ALCS to meet again. Oakland owns baseball’s best record, and would meet the Wild Card winner in a Division Series, while the Tigers would match up with the winner of the AL East, a race the Orioles now lead after the A’s beat the Blue Jays Friday night.