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.