Nothing has been easy for the Detroit Tigers this year. Some like to play ‘blame the manager’. Others point a finger at the Tigers’ business-like approach to the game, begging for a little fire, a little fight. But time and time again Jim Leyland has said “We are who we are”. He doesn’t apologize for it. He doesn’t necessarily expect you to understand it either.
And once more, his team finds itself on the doorstep of playoff elimination. Last week the Tigers were able to fight back from a 2-1 series deficit against the A’s and move on to the ALCS.
This time, Leyland’s crew heads back to Boston with the following mission: win both games or else.
Nothing has changed. The Tigers were built to win a World Series, plain and simple. Should they fall short of that goal, the season will be deemed a failure, and rightfully so. How long can the Tigers waste a dominant core of players buried in the midst of their primes without hanging the ultimate banner?
But not so fast! Last I checked a team has to win four games in a best of seven series to be declared the winner. Winning in Beantown is never easy and has long been a difficult task for the Tigers. However, they were one ill-advised Joaquin Benoit pitch away from taking both games in the shadow of the green monster just a few short days ago. And as we all know, with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on the mound, anything is possible.
The initial burden falls on Scherzer, and if he can win Game 6 and force a winner-take-all Game 7, this series will instantly be elevated into one of the most captivating playoff battles in recent MLB memory. He’ll take the hill at 4:30 eastern on Saturday afternoon and will pray for a little help from his friends.
Consider that four of the five games thus far have been decided by just one run, including all three losses the Tigers have incurred. Two games ended up being 1-0 final scores. Think of the Tigers stringing no-hit innings together with ease. Remember Big Papi’s grand slam in Game 2. How about Jose Iglesias’ running catch in Game 5? This series has had it all.
But no matter how good Max (and hopefully JV) pitches, you just can’t win without some offense, which has come with great inconsistency for the Tigers.
But imagine if Scherzer does win tomorrow. Verlander v. John Lackey on Sunday night for all of the American League marbles in the most storied stadium in the league? It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Will Prince Fielder finally bust out of his power drought? Does Miguel Cabrera have enough left in the tank? Can the Tigers’ bullpen hang if Max and JV can’t go all nine innings? Will the Tigers need to finally break the Red Sox via their elite pen led by Koji Uehara? Will Clay Buchholz rise up and match Max pitch-for-pitch? Will Boston’s speed finally be the difference-maker many thought it would be?
One thing I do know is this: playoff baseball is king, and this series is on the brink of royalty.
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