The Detroit Tigers made the worst kind of history a team can make on Sunday afternoon; the kind that they have all by themselves. After being no-hit Sunday during a 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins, they were the first playoff bound team in the history of baseball to be no-hit in the season’s final game.
With the division championship wrapped up long ago, Detroit didn’t play their usual lineup of stars, which certainly helped aid in the Marlins’ outstanding feat. However, any time a pitcher manages to no-hit a major league roster, you simply have to tip your cap to him. Such is the case for Henderson Alvarez. He was better than the Tigers for nine full innings.
That doesn’t excuse the listless play of Detroit in the final road series of the year, though. With little on the line, Detroit was swept by Miami, a team with nothing to play for either but pride. On the final series of the season, the Marlins were full of that, while the Tigers were not. Now, they face the challenge of having to shake off a tough weekend which closed in the worst possible way in short order.
Worse, the Tigers will face the Oakland Athletics again. Lost in the majesty of Detroit’s run to the World Series last fall was the fact that their first series against the A’s was painfully close. Entering a decisive game 5 in Oakland, the teams had both scored 11 runs through four games and every contest went down to the final innings. If Justin Verlander doesn’t turn in an out of this world performance in an elimination game, the Tigers likely go home. Many figured Detroit would have an easier time with the Athletics, but every single game was an intense grind for nine full innings.
This season, the Athletics quietly enter the playoffs just as hot, and will once again have home field advantage behind their rowdy crowd. Offensively and defensively, Oakland isn’t that far behind the Tigers in any statistical category. For all Detroit’s supposed offensive dominance, the Athletics only trailed the Tigers by 29 runs and hit 10 more home runs during the season. Pitching wise, though the Tigers’ staff was stellar, Oakland is on their heels as well, possessing a lower team ERA (3.56) while allowing 13 less earned runs.
As even as the games were last year, that figures to be the case again this time around. The possible difference which might tip the scales toward the opposition? Questions. Does Detroit know they can count on Verlander for dominance in this series? What about Miguel Cabrera’s health? Can the bullpen hold a late lead? In 2013, there seems to be more questions about these Tigers than answers. Last year, there were far more answers from Detroit’s perspective than questions.
Not only is Detroit only 2-5 since September 22nd while fighting an inconsistent Verlander, sputtering offense and dinged up Cabrera, they have to fight against the bad feelings of a no-hitter being tossed against them on the season’s last day. Perhaps the Tigers can make history and become the first playoff team to be no-hit on the season’s final day that goes on to win the World Series. Perhaps the no-no will end up leading to a longer hangover that gets them eliminated.
Regardless, the Tigers undeniably head into these playoffs with more clouds than rays of sunshine. Will their playoff parade be rained on yet again? After considering every variable including the most telling one over the weekend, its looking like a 60 percent chance of showers before the first pitch has even been thrown.
This week, the Tigers’ family mourned the loss of Gates Brown, a fantastic player who was a member of the Tigers for his entire career. Fans took to our Facebook page to offer their sympathies, and one offered perhaps the most appropriate memory of “The Gator.” It’s our Facebook feedback of the week.
Charles Zachary: I remember when he beat the Red Sox twice in a Sunday double header with clutch pinch hits in both games in ’68. R.I.P. Gator.
Obviously, being younger, I sadly didn’t have first hand knowledge of Brown’s game or abilities, but every Tiger fan in my family, from uncles to my father, raved about Brown’s uncanny ability to pinch hit. In today’s game, that’s a lost art. Brown may have been the best pinch hitter in the history of the game according to many. He’ll always be remembered for feats like the one Charles described around Detroit. Additionally, though, Gator will be sorely missed in the community and at Comerica Park, which is how plenty of younger fans got to connect with him. R.I.P. indeed, Gates.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax