Well, the playoffs are finally set.. The Rangers won six straight to match the Tigers four straight wins down the stretch and they get home field so the Tigers get the Yankees in the first round beginning Friday. The Rays completed their incredible comeback and they’ll face the Rangers in the first round Friday afternoon. If you’re a half glass full kind of guy, I’d say facing the Yankees isn’t a horrible thing because I think the Tigers match up better against the Yankees in the shorter series then they might in a seven game series.
The Yankees finished with the best record in the American League in the best division in baseball and that’s no small task. While they’re starting pitching once you get past CC Sabathia is a little spotty (I’m still not sold on Ivan Nova), they have some very solid middle relief and of course the top of the line offense. Game one is going to be pretty important with Verlander on the mound. For those of you who want to continue with the Doug Fister/Doyle Alexander comparisons, Alexander was horrible come playoff time in 1987 but Fister pitched pretty well in Yankee Stadium in one his start against them this year.
In looking at the pitching matchups, I think the Tigers have a slight edge in each of them but the Yankees make up for it at the plate. While it’s easy to look at the fact that the Yankees had the second best offense (runs scored) and the Tigers the fourth, there were 80 runs between the two of them. Only the Red Sox scored more runs then the Yankees did.
Game one, while big in a lot of five game series, is going to be extra important in this series. Whichever ace can win will get their team sitting pretty. And we’ll see if Jim Leyland sticks with his “no Verlander on three days rest” if the Tigers backs are against the wall. I still think one of his big mistakes in 2006 was not pitching Kenny Rogers over Nate Robertson in game five of the World Series that year (and that wasn’t even a rest issue because they had the rain out).
I’m going to go with he happy prediction. Tigers take game one and two at Yankee Stadium, Yankees survive by taking game three and then the Tigers wrap it up in four a la 2006. I’d be interested to see who outside of Detroit makes a similar prediction though. Now I just have to work on getting my Tiger playoff tickets.
The Tigers beat the Athletics last night and for the first time in 24 years, Detroit has a division championship. Back in 1987, I was starting my junior year in high school and those last couple of weeks of that season were about as exciting as you can get. This time around, the Tigers still have eleven games left to play. It’ll be interesting to see how the final week and a half of the season is handled because while there is still something to play for, the eye has to be on the prize and there’s still a long way to go for that. Getting Verlander set up so he’s rested and ready for game one of the ALDS should be the first priority. Not that he can’t handle the pressure, but he’s going to be the key to making an extended run in this thing.
The Tigers are two games ahead of the Rangers and three back of the Yankees (four in the loss column). If the playoffs started today, the Tigers would face the Red Sox in round one. A month ago I would have been scared of that series but these two teams have taken divergent paths the past few weeks. The Red Sox look like they have the Wild Card in hand and they can effectively wrap it up with a win this weekend. Of course if the Rays win the next two, things will go back to interesting. Josh Beckett returned yesterday and looked sharp and unless this one goes to the wire, Beckett/Verlander is going to make for an interesting game one matchup.
The Yankees really worry me, as they should. The starting pitching, once you get past CC Sabathia, is pretty spotty, but with this offense and their middle relief, the Yankees don’t need a starter to do much more then pitch six innings and not let the game get out of hand. I think a lot is going to come down to who can shorten their first round series the most. If a team like the Tigers can sweep while the Rangers and Yankees goes to five games, it’ll give the Tigers some flexibility in how they arrange their pitchers in the ALCS.
I’m going to try to make it down for one more game. It’ll be interesting to see what the crowds are like now that the playoff spot is in hand. The Tigers continue on in Oakland this afternoon. It’ll be Rick Porcello against a solid Gio Gonzalez.
It’s been a nice six days for Tigers’ fans. After back to back sweeps over the White Sox and Indians, the Tigers now sit nine games ahead of the second place White Sox and they’re eight ahead in the loss column. With their magic number at 12, the Tigers would need a complete collapse coupled with a hot streak by either Chicago or Cleveland to blow this one. Now they’re looking at a half game deficit with the Texas Rangers for home field in the first round of the playoffs.
So, it’s time to start thinking, if not preparing for the playoffs. With the expanded rosters, you should see a few more days off for some of the regular players and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Tigers stretch out the rotation a little bit. They also need to align things so Justin Verlander gets that game one start. The bad thing is, the Yankees and Red Sox (the likely opponents for the Tigers) are going to be able to do the same thing.
It’ll be interesting to see what Jim Leyland does with the rotation once the playoffs start. I know in 2006 he stuck with a four man rotation for better or worse but I think this year, it’s imperative that Verlander be on the mound as much as possible. While going to three days rest might not be best early on, you have to at least think about if the Tigers get their backs against the walls. Of course best case is, they shorten their series as much as possible so they’re not tempted to try something more radical.
I figure it’ll be Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister as the front three with Rick Porcello being the fourth guy if needed. Another big thing will be getting Victor Martinez back behind the plate. Alex Avila will probably catch most of the games but you want Martinez ready in the event something happens to Avila.
The Tigers host the Twins this weekend then they hit the road for a week and half. I was hoping to get down for one more game this year but it might be tough because this weekend isn’t an option. It might be the Friday or Saturday game against the Orioles which you would hope by then the Tigers would have wrapped up the division.