Once again, for the eleventh time in history, and the fourth time in my young life (and the second time in my bloggerly existence), my Tigers are headed to the World Series. Woo, as they say, Hoo!
I don't know if I can handle this properly, or not; the Tigers, in my lifetime, have been pretty much of a once-every-twenty-years-or-so team, when it comes to the World Series. For them to make a third post-season appearance (to say nothing of that Game-163 thing in '09), and a second World Series, in six years, just seems sorta, I dunno, extravagant. I mean, is it our turn again already? Not, mind you, that I'm complaining. . .
As things turned out, it was the Tigers' unpleasant duty to bring an end to the Oakland A's Feel-Good-Story-of-the-Year in the first round, but not before getting to the winner-take-all 5th game. But then, Justin Verlander (known in these parts as The Best Pitcher in Baseball, or TBPiB, for short) just kinda squeezed all the life out of the poor A's in the deciding game. Somewhere along the way, we started noticing that, hey, ALL our starting pitchers are pitching REALLY well; not just Verlander, but Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, were just stifling the opposing bats to a pretty incredible degree. Against the A's, our four starters had a combined Earned-Run-Average (ERA) of 1.30, and only allowed 21 hits in 34-2/3 innings; the A's hit a combined .176 against them. For those of you who don't follow baseball, or for whom baseball statistics are drooling-stupor-inducing, I'll just say that those are just mind-bogglingly good numbers, and all the moreso against a team that was good enough to make the playoffs, and had won 9 of its last 11 games, and 33 of its last 46, before the playoffs.
After dispatching the A's, we moved on to face the dreaded New York Yankees in the League Championship Series, and our pitching got even better (altho, to hear the New York media tell it, the Yankees were a bunch of mentally-defective degenerates, so the Tigers could hardly help sweeping them away; but those degenerates somehow managed to win 95 games this season). The Yankees only scored six runs total in four games against the Tigers, and four of those were in a single, epic melt-down of an inning, against our erstwhile one-time closer, who has struggled all year, but most especially in the playoffs. In 27-1/3 innings, our starters allowed two runs and 13 hits; those are simply ridiculous numbers.
Honestly, it feels a little odd to be sitting here, waiting for the World Series to start, after the season we had this year. Virtually everyone expected the Tigers to run away with the Central Division this year, especially after signing Prince Fielder to augment what was already a pretty potent offense. But the team seemed to be playing in molasses all year. Doug Fister, who had pitched so well for us in 2011, spent the first half or more of the season on and off of the injury list, and Max Scherzer got off to a horrible start. Our hitting was inconsistent, and maddeningly un-clutch; I can't think of how many times a runner on third base with no outs failed to score, or how many times we hit into double-plays with the bases loaded and one out. Plus, when our starters pitched well, our bullpen would blow the games at the end. 58 games into the season, the Tigers' record was 26-32, and they were six games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox.
Eventually, they started to play better, but all season long, it was three steps forward, two steps back. They'd go on a 13-2 run, and follow it with a 2-6 stretch, followed by a 6-0 run, then 1-5. As late as September 17, they lost a critical game against the White Sox that left them three games behind with 16 to play. And on the 23rd, they lost both ends of a doubleheader against the Twins (the freakin' TWINS!), when winning even one of them would have pulled them into a tie for first. As a fan, it was continuously, maddeningly frustrating.
But the Tigers won eight of their final ten games and surged past the White Sox , who were stumbling just as we were hitting our stride. At the same time, Miguel Cabrera went on a personal tear of his own, that ended with him winning the Triple Crown, the first hitter since 1967 to accomplish that feat. We ended up winning the division by three games.
And I recalled thinking that, if we could just make it into the post-season, our pitching was good enough to possibly carry us pretty far. Little did I know. . .
At the moment, it looks likely that we'll be facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, for the fourth time (unless Uncle Skip's Giants can pull off another three-game, come-from-behind miracle). The Cardinals beat us the last time we were in the Series, in 2006, so there's a certain sentiment in these parts that wants to see the rematch. But, really, we just want to play the Series against whoever shows up, and, hopefully, win.
It's funny - the first two times I watched the Tigers in the World Series, in '68 and '84, they just kicked ass all season long, and carried it over into the playoffs. I'm not used to this sneaking-in the last couple days thing.
But - good times to be a Tiger fan. Good, good times. . .
It's actually kinda nice, in a way, that the World Series doesn't start until next Wednesday. My Spartans play their annual Rivalry Game against our Sister School from down the road this weekend, and it's nice to have a brief break from the Tigers, so we can concentrate all of our passion and energy on the football game for the weekend. My Spartans have won the last four in a row against the maize-and-blue (well, they call it maize; we call it corn), but this season hasn't gone quite as well for the ol' alma mater. Not that the Wolver-persons are all that and a bag of chips, but for us to extend our winning streak against them would be a bit of an upset. We'll see. . .
Go Green! Go White! Go Spartans!
(add, 22 Oct)
Well, my Spartans couldn't extend their winning streak over their in-state rivals this past weekend, losing 12-10 on a last-second field goal. The game was right there for them to win it, but it's just been that kind of season for 'em. Ah, well; I suppose we have to let 'em win every five years or so, or they won't want to play with us anymore. . .
But hey, maybe there'll be some kind of karmic balance, and it'll bode well for my Tigers in the World Series. We still don't know who we're gonna play come Wednesday night; Uncle Skip's Giants came back from the brink, and play a deciding Game 7 tonight, the winner of which will be our World Series opponent. . .