The Detroit Tigers survived. Justin Verlander has reclaimed his status as ‘The Man’. Max Scherzer is forevermore a Detroit legend. Miguel Cabrera proved he can still hit a home run. Joaquin Benoit wobbled but shut it down. And Jim Leyland didn’t cry?
For the moment, the Tigers have restored faith in their rankled fan base, one that is starving for the city’s first title in 30 years. Bouncing the Oakland A’s was no small feat. People tend to forget that Oakland had the better regular season, arguably the better team, and were picked by most to win the ALDS matchup v. Detroit.
Rinse and repeat. The same story is back on for the ALCS as the general consensus seems to be that the Tigers cannot hang with the Red Sox. Game 1 will kick off in Boston at 8:00 eastern on Saturday night. The series will be played in a 2-3-2 format. Read below for everything you need to know about the matchup:
Boston had the American League’s best record at 97-65, 5.5 games better than the Rays. They disposed of those same Rays in a 4-game ALDS showdown. Boston wrapped that series up on Tuesday, meaning they’ll have been sitting idle for nearly four days by the time the first ALCS pitch is thrown.
Detroit was 93-69 in the regular season, edging the Indians by one game. The Tigers were pushed to the brink against the A’s but fended off two straight elimination games to move on to the ALCS for the 3rd consecutive year.
The teams played each other seven times during the regular season and the Tigers won four of those games. Detroit won three of four at Comerica Park back in late June. In early September, the Tigers lost two of three at Fenway. The game the Tigers won in Fenway was made possible by seven shutout innings from Doug Fister.
As Tigers fans just saw, pitching is at a premium in the playoffs. Barring a potential mid-series rotational shake-up the pitching matchups will look like this:
Games 1 & 5: Anibal Sanchez v. Jon Lester
Games 2 & 6: Max Scherzer v. Clay Buchholz
Games 3 & 7: Justin Verlander v. John Lackey
Game 4: Doug Fister v. Jake Peavy
Not to discredit Boston’s arms, but the Tigers clearly have the better rotation, especially with the recent 4-game resurgence of Justin Verlander (four consecutive shutout appearances covering 27 innings). To be able to throw Sanchez (the AL’s ERA leader), Scherzer (this year’s shoe-in Cy Young winner) and a smoking-hot JV twice each is an extreme luxury for Jim Leyland.
Boston has a shutdown closer in Koji Uehara but overall the bullpens are fairly evenly matched. And for those wondering, no, Bruce Rondon is not ready to return for the ALCS.
Boston and Detroit finished #1 and 2 respectively in the big leagues in runs scored. They can both get it done in the batter’s box. The major difference here is that Boston’s speed makes their attack more recession-proof than the Tigers’ lumbering ‘athletes’.
Boston was 4th in baseball with 123 steals. The shocker is that they were only caught 19 times. At one point in the season they stole 45 consecutive bases before finally being nabbed. Their 86.6% success rate was the 2nd best such mark in the live ball era. They can run. And the Tigers’ inability to control the opposition’s running game and throw out base stealers has been well-documented. The key for Detroit will be to keep Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Shane Victorino off the bases.
The good news for the Tigers is that the Red Sox struck out the 4th most of any AL team this year, whiffing 1,308 times, or 235 more times than the Tigers, and 130 times more than Oakland, and we all saw how that ended. The 57 K’s amassed by Oakland hitters broke an ALDS record.
David Ortiz is the leader and he hit .385 against Tampa, which was only 3rd best on the team as Ellsbury hit an even .500 and Victorino .429. Their offense comes in much hotter than the Tigers. But fans must remember that Detroit has a propensity to get shut out as well as score double-digit runs.
The problem in Motown can be represented by these numbers: .158, .133, .100, and .083. These are the ALDS batting averages of Torii Hunter, Alex Avila, Austin Jackson, and Jose Iglesias. Imagine where this team would have been without the return of Jhonny Peralta and his .417 clip, 2nd only to Victor Martinez’s .450 mark.
Consider that starting at the bottom of the order, Iglesias, AJax, and Hunter bat in succession. That’s a lot of outs in a row. To compete with Boston’s prolific bats at least two and preferably three of these guys must step up.
I actually thought Boston might fizzle and predicted Tampa to win that series. I couldn’t have been more wrong as the Red Sox were clearly superior. I also predicted the Tigers to beat Oakland in four – close enough. For credibility’s sake I did predict the Cardinals in 5 (nailed it) and the Dodgers in 4 (bam).
This series will most likely come down to whether Detroit’s pitching can slow Boston’s bats down just enough to let the Tigers’ offense steal a few games. The law of averages tells me that the Tigers have to start hitting at some point. It might as well be now.
In what will be a true classic, I have the Tigers in 7 behind another heroic performance by Verlander in the clincher.
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