Well, once again, for the third year in a row, my Tigers have passed through the Division Series round of Major League Baseball's post-season playoffs, and earned for themselves the right to play for the American League championship. And this time, we get to play against my friend Suldog's Boston Red Sox (or Sawx, if, you know, you're from there. . .) Now that the Sox have won themselves a couple World Series in the last decade, they'll happily revert to their status quo ante as baseball's (or at least the American League's) calvinistically star-crossed team, right? The Curse of the Bambino, and all that (or, maybe now there's a Curse of The Youk) (well, there could be. . .) (or maybe a Curse of Josh Beckett; wait, is that laughter I hear coming from the Northeast?) Yeah, I know. . . probably not. . .
But you know, it's actually fairly amazing to me that we're here. A couple days ago, it really didn't look like we would be. When the A's won Game 3 of our series, things were not looking good for mis Tigres. Of the first 27 innings between the Tigers and A's, the Tigers had failed to score in 25 of them, including one excruciating stretch of 20 in a row. Incredibly, Justin Verlander threw 15 innings in two starts against the A's, without giving up a single run, and only had one victory to show for it (and the tying run was at the plate in the 9th inning last night. . . but, I'm getting ahead of myself).
Game 4 was a great game, unless you have heart issues. Once again, the A's took the early lead, and halfway through the game, the Tigers had yet to score, running their scoring drought to 29 of their first 31 turns at bat. They tied the game in the bottom of the 5th, but the A's re-took the lead in the top of the 7th, leaving the Tigers nine outs from elimination. But Victor Martinez tied the game on a home run that may or may not have been interfered with by a fan (OK, OK, it WAS interfered with, but if Reddick actually catches that ball, it's one of the great catches of all time; just sayin'), and then Austin Jackson, who set a record by striking out 13 times (13 times!!) in a 5-game series, drove in the go-ahead run while splinters of his bat were flying in every direction at once.
Looking good, right? Not so fast. In the top of the 8th, Max Scherzer (this year's Best Pitcher on the Tigers, and possible Cy Young Award winner), pitching in relief, loads the bases with nobody out. Uh-oh (as in, Uh-freakin'-Oh). Two strikeouts and a fly-out later, and the lead is intact. Edge-of-the-seat, pressure baseball at its very finest, right there. We add three more runs in the bottom of the 8th (and a good thing, too, 'cuz the A's scored two more in the 9th), and escape to Game 5.
Then, last night, Justin Verlander pitched for the Tigers, and, just like he did last year, squeezed all the life out of the poor A's, who have got to be having nightmares about Verlander about now. In the last two playoffs, Verlander has started four games against the A's, allowing a single run in the first inning of Game 1 last year, and nothing since. 30 consecutive turns at bat against Verlander, and the A's have yet to score their second playoff run against him. (Just as a footnote to what I was saying above - counting the two playoff games so far, Verlander has had ten starts this season in which he gave up no runs; ten starts, no runs, and his record in those ten games is 5-0, with five - count 'em five - no-decisions, every single one of which eventuated in a loss for the Tigers; and thereby hangs a tale of the sometime frustrations of this season for Tiger fans. . .) The A's didn't get their first base-runner until a one-out walk in the 6th inning, and two outs into the 7th, Verlander was still working on a no-hitter. The Tigers weren't exactly lighting up the skies offensively, either, but somehow or other, Miguel Cabrera (who is to hitting roughly what Verlander has been to pitching, except that nagging 'lower-body' injuries have sapped his power, and his ability to, uh, move, since September; ever see a 370-foot single off the wall? Tiger fans have). . . Okay, uh, where was I, before I was abducted by parentheses? Oh, yeah - Miguel Cabrera turned on an inside fastball with a runner on, so we actually had a couple runs on the board. Which, the way Verlander was pitching, could last into February, if it had to. And we're movin' on. . .
. . . to Boston, and a best-of-seven series with the Suldog's Red Sox for the championship of the American League. It should be a good series; the Red Sox are a good team, and one of the few whose starting pitching is close to as good as ours (*cough*Dodgers*cough*). And their hitting might be better than ours (at least, the way we've been hitting lately). We've never played the Red Sox in the post-season before (heck, from the beginning of divisional play in '69, through 2005, the Tigers played in exactly three League Championship Series, all of them while the Tigers and Red Sox were in the same division, so that wouldn't be as surprising as all that).
And all of a sudden, Jim Leyland's move of using Max Scherzer in relief in Game 4, looks like a genius move; now, Anibal Sanchez (the AL's ERA leader, and nominally the second-best pitcher on the Tigers this year) will start Game 1 against the Sox, and Scherzer and Verlander will pitch Games 2 and 3; should the series go the full seven games, Scherzer and Verlander will pitch Games 6 and 7. Nice.
Anyway, it should be a fun series, between two really good teams.
Let's Go, Tigers!