The Tigers kickoff the 2011 ALCS tonight against the Texas Rangers. While Detroit won six out of nine games against the Rangers this year, this matchup has the makings of a seven game series. Both teams have a goies od offense, both teams have good pitching. The key for the Tigers will be starting pitching. Detroit was able to shut down the powerful Yankees lineup with solid starting pitching, and they will need to do the same if they hope to advance to the World Series. Everyone expects Verlander to perform, but the Tigers will need Fister and Scherzer to pitch like they did against the Yankees. In addition to pitching, Detroit will need to see more offense from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. The 4-5 hitters led the Tigers offense all season long, but were quiet in the ALDS. It has already been announced that Delmon Young will be left off the roster (replaced by Danny Worth), so the Tigers will need to see some offense from other spots in the lineup. If the starting pitching is solid and Cabrera and Martinez come through, Detroit will be tough to beat.
Prediction: Tigers win in 6 games.
It’s been less than 48 hours since Jose Valverde struck out A-Rod to clinch the ALDS, and it has given me time to reflect on the past week. My heart rate and blood pressure are just now starting to return to normal levels. I (and probably every other Tigers fan) spent the entire series pouring over every pitch and every at-bat. As the stress mounted with every passing inning, I began to realize something strange about the Tigers first postseason series in five years: I wasn’t enjoying the experience. Ever since the final out in the 2006 World Series loss to the Cards, I have wanted nothing more than for the Tigers to return to October baseball. This year we finally made it. As the Tigers quickly pulled away from the Indians and White Sox in September, I longed for the season to end and the postseason to begin. Leading up to October I was like a child waiting for Christmas morning, and given the Tigers irregularity in making the playoffs, I vowed to take in as much as possible once the ALDS started. While I expected a Tigers triumph to invoke emotions of elation and excitement, I was surprised at what I was feeling at the end of Game 5: relief. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had invested so much in the series, that I didn’t have anything left following Thursday night’s victory. As the Tigers kick off the ALCS tonight against the Rangers, I expect nothing less than another stressful week of baseball.
The further we get into this year’s Tigers-Yankees playoff series, the more it begins mirror the 2006 series between the two teams. In 2006, the Detroit faced the New York as the wild card, and after losing the first game on the road, came back to win three straight and clinch the series at home. With a win tonight, the Tigers will replicate their performance in ’06 and advance to face the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
The big story heading into tonight’s game is Yankee starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. After signing a large contract heading into the 2009 season, the talented Burnett has been less than spectacular. Heading into the postseason, the Yankees hadn’t planned on using Burnett, but following Friday night’s rainout, the Yankees were forced to use a fourth starter. Arguably the most inconsistent pitcher in the American League, Burnett will try to save the Yankees season by defeating the Tigers at Comerica Park, a place he has had little success.
Tonight the Tigers send third-year pitcher Rick Porcello to the mound in hopes of clinching the series. Porcello, like Burnett, has also had a bit of a roller coaster season. At times, he has pitched brilliantly, but struggled to hold form throughout the regular season. For Porcello to succeed tonight, he will need to have a strong command of his fastball and sharp movement on his sinker. With a strong performance from Porcello and some timely hits from the offense, the Tigers will win the series and match the results of the 2006 ALDS.
Following 5-3 Tigers victory in Game 2, all eyes turn to Verlander in Game 3. JV has had the most impressive season of his career, and has had great success in high-profile games. Without question, tonight’s game in Detroit will be the most important game of the season. In order for the Tigers to win, Verlander will have to find his rhythm early and avoid 3-1 and 3-2 counts. The Yankees are patient, professional hitters who love to foul off pitches and drive the opposing pitchers pitch count up. With Benoit and Valverde throwing over twenty pitches in last night’s game, it will be important for Verlander to pitch deep into the game. If Verlander pitches the way he has all year long, Detroit will enter Game 4 with a chance to clinch the series.
Opposite of Verlander will be Cy Young co-candidate (in New York’s eyes only) C.C. Sabathia. While many baseball analysts are touting Sabathia’s two innings of work, he wasn’t as strong as he looked. Sabathia racked up four strikeouts in those two innings, but two of the four took place during a torrential downpour, making it nearly impossible for hitters to have a quality at-bat. Look for Sabathia to struggle in a hostile Comerica Park against the dangerous Tigers lineup.
Here are 3 reasons why Tigers fans shouldn’t panic:
- It’s only 1 game! If my memory serves me correctly, Detroit lost Game 1 of the 2006 ALDS against the Yankees, but won the next 3 to take the series. The Tigers won the season series against the Yankees, including 3 straight wins in Detroit. Sure, we would all feel much more comfortable being a game up rather than a game down, but this series is far from over.
- The game wasn’t as lop-sided as the score indicated. Alburquerque made a mistake to Cano that cost 4 runs in the form of a grand slam. In the first inning (Friday), the Tigers made several defensive mistakes that could have easily prevented the first Yankee run from scoring. Eliminating those 5 runs makes it a 5-3 score. Although the result is still a loss, a 2 run loss sounds much better than a 6 loss.
- Miguel Cabrera. He knows what it takes to succeed in the postseason. In 2003, Cabrera won the World Series while playing with the Florida Marlins. His dangerous bat and past postseason experience will spark a dangerous Tigers offense before this series is over.
Before we throw in the towel, let’s wait and see what happens in Game 2. The Tigers battled are season long, and I guarantee they won’t go down without a fight.