By Rick Eymer
Stanford grad Jed Lowrie broke an eight-game hitless streak in the postseason Tuesday, going 2 for 4 and driving in three runs, for the Oakland Athletics in an 8-6 loss to the host Detroit Tigers.
Lowrie, who hit his first career postseason home run and recorded his first career multi-RBI postseason game, and the A's host the Tigers in a winner-take-all game five of the American League Division Series on Thursday at 5 p.m.
"Getting that first hit in the first inning and driving in that first run was big," Lowrie said Wednesday. "I felt like I had been struggling with the timing a little bit. Those were two big hits for me and I feel more comfortable at the plate."
Oakland and Lowrie have proved to be a good fit. The former Cardinal All-American enjoyed the most productive season of his six-year career, helping the A's win their second straight AL West Division title.
Lowrie has appeared in 16 postseason contests, including seven in the 2008 AL Championship Series. He's still looking to play in his first World Series.
At the root of his success this year was his health. He finally showed he could play an entire season. He never played in more than 97 games before playing 154 this year.
He set career highs in at bats (603), runs (80), hits (175), doubles (45), RBI (75) and batting average (.290) as he settled in as the regular shortstop.
He's been a steady player for A's manager and Menlo-Atherton High grad Bob Melvin.
"Jed didn't get any hits the first couple of games and the next thing he's hitting a two-run homer," Melvin said. "It's just a matter of time before he breaks out and tomorrow would be a good day for that."
The A's will start rookie Sonny Gray against Tigers' veteran Justin Verlander, who has a career 2.38 ERA in 10 career starts in Oakland. He's also 5-4 in those games and 8-6 overall against the A's.
"I think we have confidence, we're playing at home," Lowrie said. "We know what we're up against in Justin Verlander, but I think we're all prepared and know that it's a winner-take-all scenario and everybody will be ready to go."
Lowrie had a breakout season for Stanford in 2004, his sophomore year, earning First Team All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year honors after winning the conference's Triple Crown with 17 homers, 68 RBI and a .399 batting average.
He also played in the 2003 College World Series, when the Cardinal reached the finals against Rice.
Sonny Gray, who will start for the A's on Thursday, was in college two years ago. He was the winning pitcher in Vanderbilt's 2-1 victory over Stanford and Mark Appel in February of 2011.
"You see the talent right away, you see the power arm," Lowrie said of Gray. "Especially in Game†2, you see how a young kid is going to react. He went out there with all the confidence in the world and performed really well."
It will take another good performance from Gray, Lowrie and the rest of the A's to advance into the ALCS against the team, the Boston Red Sox, that drafted Lowrie in 2005.