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.