Notes: Polanco usually a pain to A's
Tigers second baseman hitting .493 career against Oakland
OAKLAND -- With all due respect to Curtis Granderson's performance so far in the postseason, Jim Leyland won't face any second-guessing if Placido Polanco steps to the plate to lead off the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night. Leyland's only regret might be that Polanco can't bat second, third and fourth, too.
The Athletics were the team behind "Moneyball," but Polanco has been money against the A's. It started with a 5-for-12, two-homer series against them as a member of the Phillies during Interleague Play in 2003. It continued upon joining the Tigers last year with a four-hit game en route to a 7-for-13 series at the end of July in Oakland, then a 5-for-12 set a month later in Detroit.
Whatever the reason, Polanco hits Oakland pitching, regardless of the pitcher. Whether he's hitting first or second, he is a chore for the A's to face, batting .493 (33-for-67) off of them for his career.
"I think he's a catalyst for them," A's Game 1 starter Barry Zito said. "He's a guy similar to a lot of leadoff hitters for teams. He's a two-hole hitter, but he's a guy that just finds a way to put the sweet spot on the ball. And when he does that, he'll hit doubles in the gap, little flares. He finds a way to get on base. He's definitely a threat. I think if he's on base most times, their team is in a position to win."
With the left-handed Zito taking the mound for Game 1, it's likely Leyland would employ Polanco at leadoff and bat Granderson lower in the order, much like he did against the Yankees' Randy Johnson last Friday. But whether Polanco bats first or second, it doesn't hurt that Polanco is 7-for-11 lifetime against Zito, though all seven hits are singles.
Polanco has no reason for any for it -- hitting Zito, hitting the A's, any of it.
"I couldn't tell you, seriously," Polanco said. "I'd be lying if I told you something. I guess the background [at McAfee Coliseum] goes with my eyes or something. I don't know."
He does believe, however, that success against a top-caliber pitcher can have an effect.
"He's a great pitcher," Polanco said of Zito. "I guess you concentrate more against those guys. It's just one of those things. No secret."
Gone-away Sox: Magglio Ordonez had a hard time watching last year's World Series while the White Sox swept their way to a title. Meanwhile, Frank Thomas -- still on the team last season -- had to watch from afar because of season-ending injuries.
They've both moved on. Now, one of the former White Sox sluggers is going on to this year's World Series.
"I know it's not personal," Thomas said, "but Magglio and I went down pretty much the same row with the White Sox. It was great. We went to different teams and we've done a great job for our new teams. It's kind of funny that we're facing off in the ALCS."
Ordonez and Thomas, teammates for eight years in Chicago, have stayed good friends from miles away since leaving. On the field, of course, they've moved on not only to reach the playoffs, but become the focal point of their respective team's lineup.
High standards at hot corner: Brandon Inge never watched video of established Major League third basemen when he was learning the position. If he had, though, Eric Chavez likely would've been at the top of his list.
"I like how calm he is, no matter how hard the ball's hit at him," Inge said of Chavez, closing in on what will likely be his sixth consecutive AL Gold Glove. "For me, once the ball's hit, there's a natural adrenaline that you get that's nearly impossible to control. He just reacts differently and doesn't show it as much. He makes it seem like it's nothing. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. From watching, I can tell he takes great pride in his defense, and that's something special."
Surprisingly, Inge said the players he studied when trying to learn third base were shortstops like Deter Jeter and his own teammate, Carlos Guillen. He wanted to pick up how they use their hands.
"You have to be a little bit off your rocker to play third base," Inge said.
Still the underdog: Even though the series is seemingly regarded as an even matchup, closer Todd Jones sees the Tigers still in a position where they're not getting a whole lot of respect. He watched the aftermath coverage of the Tigers' Division Series win over the Yankees and didn't see much credit being given to their side.
"We beat the Yankees," Jones said, "and [the coverage suggested] the Yankees blew up, we didn't beat them. And now all the national media's talking about the Mets, how they're going to win the World Series. But this team hasn't had any credit given to [it] the whole year, so really nothing's changed. Nobody thinks we're going to do anything again, which is great."
Game 1 starter Nate Robertson wasn't as annoyed about it, at least publicly.
"I mean, when you go out and spend $200 million, you're going to grab some attention," Robertson said.
Umpires: Major League Baseball announced the umpiring crews for the League Championship Series on Monday. Jerry Crawford will serve as the ALCS crew chief, along with Mike Reilly, Derryl Cousins, Chuck Meriwether, Gary Cederstrom and Hunter Wendelstedt.
Michigan native Tim Welke, meanwhile, will be the crew chief for the NLCS.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.