Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Of all the preseason predictions, the
easiest one to make - or so we thought - was that the Detroit Tigers would run
away with the American League Central.
Well, like they say, that's why they play the games.
The Tigers underachieved for the first half of the season and spent most of
the second half trying to catch the Chicago White Sox, which they finally did
with just over a week left in the regular season.
Detroit entered the postseason with the worst record of any of the American
League playoff teams at 88-74, but it was a club that had won eight of 10 to
close the year and one that had a Triple Crown winner in their lineup.
In other words, it wasn't all that much of a stretch to think the Tigers were
readying themselves for a long run, especially when you consider they were
going to be able to throw reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin
Verlander twice in a short best-of-five series against the red-hot Oakland
After two wins in Detroit to start the series, the A's found some of that
magic at home that carried them to an American League West crown and forced a
decisive Game 5 on Thursday.
They say momentum lasts only as long as the next day's starting pitcher and
that was certainly the case for the Tigers, as Verlander struck out 11 and
tossed a four-hit shutout in Detroit's 6-0 Game 5 win.
Verlander (2-0) fanned 11, scattered four hits and walked one for Detroit,
which will appear in the franchise's sixth ALCS and third in the last seven
"I don't have anybody better than him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And
if they get to him that much, we'll probably be in trouble. I'm not taking him
out, I can assure you of that, because I don't have anybody better to bring
The one knock on Verlander has been his inability to get it done in the
postseason. He entered these playoffs with a 3-3 mark and a 5.57 ERA over
eight starts, but won both of his starts in this series, surrendering just one
run over 16 frames.
Including the postseason, the 29-year-old has won his last six starts and has
posted a minuscule 0.64 ERA during the span.
"We had our backs against the wall all year and we're playing our best
baseball now when it matters," Verlander said.
But, with the ALCS starting on Saturday, the Tigers may only have the great
Verlander for two starts in the next round and he probably won't pitch until
Tuesday's Game 3. He'd also be available in a potential seventh game on short
Amazingly, the Tigers won the series despite just a .190 batting average (4-
for-21) from Prince Fielder and just one RBI from Miguel Cabrera, who, of
course, led the AL with a 330 average, 44 HRs and 139 RBIs.
Now they wait for the winner between the other Game 5 in the ALDS between the
New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. If the Yankees win the Tigers will be
in the Bronx on Saturday, whereas should Baltimore win, Detroit will be
hosting Game 1.
In other words, there will be a lot of Buck Showalter fans in Motown on
So, at the end of the day, although it might have been a tougher route than
anyone would have expected, the Tigers are right where they were supposed to
be - playing for the right to represent the American League at the World
And they might just be getting started.
The Sports Network