May 10, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Nationals 4-3 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Why Oakland's Sonny Gray can top Detroit's Max Scherzer

There will hopefully be an epic pitching duel tonight at Oakland’s O.Co Coliseum. The reigning Cy Young Award winner Tiger’s Max Scherzer will take on the young A’s ace Sonny Gray. Gray currently has the lowest ERA in the American League and was named last month’s top pitcher, yet Scherzer has been having a great year at 6-1, maybe not a 21 game winning year but he is certainly in the running for another Cy Young Award.

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Having seen both pitchers live it is easy to say that the two pitchers couldn’t be more different on the surface. Scherzer, who is almost 3o, is five years 24-year old Gray’s senior. Scherzer can throw harder. He towers over Gray at 6’3″, 230 lbs to Gray’s smaller frame at only 5’11”, 195 lbs. Scherzer is known for his slider/change-up combination while Gray is famous for his devastating curveball.

Yet, while the two pitchers can be seen as very different on the surface they are quite similar in the way the take on a game, any game whether they in the playoffs, facing another elite pitcher or playing an exhibition game. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, who made an appearance on MLB Network Tuesday afternoon, pointed out both pitchers have a sense of complete confidence that is “off the charts.”

When they go out to pitch, even in a big game like the one set for Tuesday night, they plan to win and nothing else matters. Facing off against each other in a match-up of the  two of the league’s best pitchers in a series in which the teams now have a sense of rivalry doesn’t phase either one. According to SF Gates’ Steve Kroner Gray said,

“As a starter, you always know who the other pitcher is, but once the game starts, it doesn’t matter to me, no matter who it is.”

Scherzer had a similar sense of calm,

“You know who you’re going against, but at the end of the day, I don’t face him. I don’t have a bat in my hand.”

Scherzer and Gray both play stellar defensive although this year Sonny has the edge in that category according to Slusser. Both pitchers are smart and they aggressively go after batters. Writing about Sonny Gray earlier this season I wrote about his aggressiveness and the reason he is able to wrack up strikeouts in every start for OutsidePitchMLB.

“Gray also has the ability to maintain his velocity deep into games and enjoys challenging hitters by throwing them what they are expecting.  His stuff can be so good that they usually fail to make contact. He has a similar release point for all of his pitches making it hard for the batter to differentiate a fast ball from a breaking ball. A batter almost has to wait before the pitch is out of Gray’s hand before they decide whether to swing or not, which is only a matter of seconds.”

It seems to the casual observer that the reigning Cy Young winner and more established pitcher, Scherzer, would have the edge when it comes to this showdown between two excellent hurlers. However, on March 22, 2014, I predicted that Gray would dominate the American League West,

“Gray has a very high ground ball rate and when you combine that with his high number of strikeouts and low number of walks, he really is a very unique pitcher who seems to have a little bit of everything to offer the A’s. As the facts about Gray may suggest, with more experience he will become an even better player and more deadly to hitters. This year he will almost certainly be the A’s ace and dominate the AL West.”

Only a couple weeks later Gray pitched his first complete game shutout and he has been dominating the entire American League with his 1.99 ERA. Scherzer could take the win, however, it really depends upon who is more on their game Tuesday night. Scherzer is coming off his worst start of the season and will be looking to annihilate the A’s batters to prove that he is still having a Cy Young Award quality season. Gray who faced Verlander twice in the 2013 ALDS will be looking to prove himself once again against the Tigers. The A’s and Tigers have a newly developed rivalry as the Tigers have beaten the A’s the past two years in the ALDS ,so it is inevitable that the entire A’s team will be out for vengeance.

Watch out for a quick, low scoring pitcher’s duel in Oakland Tuesday night. It is definitely this week’s game to watch.

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Tags: Detroit Tigers Max Scherzer Oakland Athletics Sonny Gray

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