Oakland, Calif. • Josh Donaldson mimics Miguel Cabrera whenever he can, and he has no problem copping to it.
Donaldson spent a couple of days each week over the offseason studying tape of Detroit's star in the batter's box, trying to pick up on anything he could apply to his own hitting for Oakland.
Indeed, Donaldson learned a thing or two that worked on the way to a breakout season: .301 batting average, 24 home runs, 93 RBIs in 158 games for the AL West champion Athletics.
"JD's the MVP of our team and Miguel Cabrera is the MVP of baseball," A's first baseman Brandon Moss said.
These two talented third basemen will face off in the playoffs for the second straight October starting with Game 1 of the AL division series Friday night.
One is a household name, 2012 Triple Crown winner and widely considered the best hitter in baseball. The other is a more anonymous up-and-comer whose spectacular September in his first full major league season earned him AL player of the month honors.
Cabrera is making $21 million this season, Donaldson a mere $492,500.
"I've watched his videos a lot as far as a hitter," Donaldson said. "He's a highly talented hitter, and I really appreciate the way he goes about hitting and I try to learn from him at what he's doing."
Cabrera was pleased to hear that Donaldson had studied his tape.
"Oh, that's great. That's awesome," Cabrera said. "He's a great player. He's one of the reasons the Oakland A's are in the playoffs. He brings a lot of energy to their ballclub."
Aside from much focus at third base, the rematch of last fall's first-round series takes on a far different look this time around. Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Tigers have something to prove after being swept by San Francisco in last year's World Series, while the A's were hardly a surprise division champion this time and know how close they were to beating the Tigers and reaching the ALCS.
Max Scherzer (21-3) gets the ball opposite Oakland 18-game winner Bartolo Colon for the opener. Tigers manager Jim Leyland is going with Justin Verlander in Saturday's Game 2 against rookie Sonny Gray.
Rays vs. Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox didn't mind waiting a few days to start their playoffs.
Not after missing them for the past three seasons.
Not after the September collapse that ruined their chances in 2011.
And certainly not after they stumbled to the club's worst record in 48 years in 2012.
"This was part of the mindset at the end of last year, a strong desire to rewrite what took place," Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday.
The revised edition tied the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record, was the highest scoring team in the majors and turned a toxic clubhouse atmosphere into a fun-loving one that was a big reason the Red Sox had 28 more wins than they did last season.
They'll try for their first in the playoffs on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of the best-of-five AL division series.
"Guys in here love playing baseball," Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes said. "It's a bunch of baseball junkies, so I'm sure they'll be happy to strap on their cleats."
NLDS • Pittsburgh (Cole 10-7) at St. Louis (Lynn 15-10), 11:07 a.m. (MLB)
ALDS • Tampa Bay (Moore 17-4) at Boston (Lester 15-8), 1:07 p.m. (TBS)
NLDS • Los Angeles (Greinke 15-4) at Atlanta (Minor 13-9 or Teheran 14-8), 4:07 p.m. (TBS)
ALDS • Detroit (Scherzer 21-3) at Oakland (Colon 18-6), 7:37 p.m. (TBS)
ALDS • Tampa Bay (Price 10-8) at Boston (Lackey 10-13), 3:37 p.m. (TBS)
ALDS • Detroit (Verlander 13-12) at Oakland (Gray 5-3), 7:07 p.m. (TBS)