Forget the past, the time is NOW! The Tigers have made it to their third straight ALCS. This time, they draw the undying Red Sox, who easily won the AL East despite pitching problems all season. The last time we faced the Red Sox in September, they hit 8 home runs in a 20-4 drubbing of our boys. We still won the season series 4 games to 3, but all of that is in the past now. Things have changed in the D, and we are fired up for another trip to the World Series.
What Still Remains
We still have relief problems and run support problems, as evidenced in Game 2 of the ALDS. JV pitched a gem, only for the bullpen to drop the ball in the ninth for a 1-0 loss to the A’s. Miggy is still hampered by his abdominal injury that has plagued him for most of the second half of the season, including during the last series against the Sox. He went 0-4 in the second game and didn’t play in the other two. Phil Coke was not too effective early in the season against the Sox, but stepped up during the last series. He is still day-to-day. He has been added to the ALCS roster in place of the VERY effective Luke Putkonen (4.1 IP vs Boston this year, 2.90 ERA).
What Has Changed
JV has gotten his groove back, despite all the Oakland fans attempts at throwing him off his game by alluding the off-field problems Prince Fielder has had with Kate Upton (totally false). Miggy hit a home run in Game 5, his first in 53 at-bats, going back to September 17th. Perhaps his abdominal issues are starting to get better. Or perhaps, like the other Tigers, he is too focused on winning the Big One to let his pain determine his game. Prince has also gotten past many of his personal problems and has started to focus on the postseason.
How Does This All Look, Swami?
Good question. If we take a look at the past, as in this season vs. the Red Sox starters for the ALCS (Lackey, Buchholz, Lester, and Peavy), we can break it down. The Tigers scored 11 runs over 27 innings off Lester and Lackey (they did not face Buchholz or Peavy in Boston). However, the Red Sox scored 14 in 29 1/3 innings off of our rotation of Sanchez, Scherzer, Verlander, and Fister. But, they have never faced AL ERA champ Anibal Sanchez. Our strongest relievers against Boston on our postseason roster are Smyly, Veras, Coke (who showed the stuff he had last year in the final series of the regular season), and Alvarez.
Our batters have also fared well against Red Sox pitching for most of the season, just never all together. AJAX batted .478 in the leadoff spot. Hunter followed that up with a .385 average. Miggy batted .421 with 1 home run and 4 RBI. But, he played in 5 games of the 7 and was injured for part of the fifth game. Prince didn’t pick up his game until after we were done with the Sox for the year, batting .250. Peralta, pre-suspension, was batting .300 against them. His replacement at shortstop, Iglesias, also batted .300 against the his former team. Pena and Dirks also batted over .300 against Red Sox pitching this year. Both had 15 or more at-bats, Pena was the primary catcher against the Red Sox, playing in four games against them. The key here is for everyone to come together in the ALCS and purr like a finely tuned engine.
The Red Sox have had a rest, but it was a long one. Long ones aren’t always the best. Remember our long rest before the World Series last year after we smoked the Yankees in the ALCS? The Red Sox admittedly laid around; they don’t expect a huge fight from this Tigers team. Judging by their new celebration dance at the mound after Game 5, I see something else in our team: a fire I did not see in 2006, 2011, or 2012. They posses a drive to win it all. That is what it takes to be a champion. The Tigers have it. The Red Sox seem to be overconfident, henceforth they lack it.
ALCS Final Prediction
Tigers win 4 games to 2. Most of the experts at www.go.espn.com agree with me on this prediction.
More Notes on ALDS, ALCS
Justin Verlander joined an elite group with his pitching performance in Game 5 of the ALDS. He tied the record of 5 postseason games with 10 or more strikeouts. The other pitchers are Cliff Lee, Randy Johnson, and Bob Gibson.
Prince Fielder hit a comebacker to the mound in Game 5 against Oakland. The hard hit shot broke the glove hand thumb of the A’s Sonny Gray. No word as of yet on how this will affect the young rookie’s career.
Moonwalk Leyland switched up the rotation for the ALCS because of the use of Max Scherzer in relief in Game 4 and Verlander starting Game 5. The Red Sox faced Sanchez in Game 1, and will follow this with Mad Max, JV, then Doug Fister.
We will never know, but had Jose Iglesias been in at shortstop when Yoenis Cespedes broke up JV’s no-hit bid in the seventh in Game 5, JV may have become the third pitcher in history to pitch a postseason no-hitter.
Alex Avila said that Verlander “had the stuff for it, he had no-hit stuff.” Verlander has a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings going currently, after having an off-year.