They did it. They’re in. Just a mere 16 days ago, it was looking very bleak for the Detroit Tigers; it appeared as if they were going to miss the postseason. After losing on September 17th in Chicago, the White Sox had a three game lead in the AL Central, and it was looking like they were going to do the unthinkable and win the division.
But, the White Sox floundered and only won three of their last 10 games, while the Tigers managed to win seven of their last 10. Securing back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1934 and 1935, Manager Jim Leyland also became the second manager in Tigers’ history to take the Tigers to the playoffs three times.
Now that the champagne has been popped and the celebration is over, it’s time to focus on the main goal: winning a World Series.
If the season ended today, the Tigers would find themselves facing a filmar foe: the Texas Rangers. Last year, the Rangers knocked the Tigers out of the American League Championship Series in six games. Could the Tigers rebound this year and issue some payback against the Rangers?
Lets see how these two teams stack up against each other:
The Rangers’ rotation has not been one of their strengths this season. Matt Harrison has done good work at top of the Texas rotation, posting a 18-10 record with a 3.26 ERA. Yu Darvish has been adequate, especially against the Tigers, in his rookie campaign. He has won 16 games and his ERA sits at 3.90, not bad at all for a rookie. After Darvish and Harrison, things start to get shakey.
Ryan Dempster has not been the pitcher the Rangers had hoped for when acquiring him from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline. Dempster has an ERA over 4.60 since putting on a Texas uniform. Scott Feldman has not been that great either. But the Rangers do have a pitcher they could call on, and he has been effective against the Tigers: Alexi Ogando. Ogando has been a Tiger- killer over the last two years, and manager Ron Washington could use him as a starter in a five game series.
The Tigers rotation has been surprisingly good this year. Justin Verlander has had another Cy Young caliber season. Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers the Major League throughout the second half of the season posting an 8-2 record with a 2.81 Earned Run Average (ERA). Doug Fister has put together a very nice season in his first full season with the Tigers; going 10-9 with a 3.38 ERA. And, Anibal Sanchez has been outstanding in his last six starts, posting an ERA under 2.50 in that span.
Who has the advantage? Simply put, the Tigers. In a short series you have to face one of the game’s best pitchers in Verlander, then Scherzer, and finally Fister. That’s a tough rotation for any team to overcome.
Both teams can hit with the best of them. The Rangers’ offense features hitters such as Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Adrian Beltre. And they are capable of changing the outcome of a game with one swing of the bat. The Tigers’ offense also showcases one of the best, and most feared, hitters in baseball by the name of Miguel Cabrera. Almost equally daunting is slugger Prince Fielder, who has drove in over a 100 runs, hit over .300, and launched 30 home runs. Fielder provides great protection for Cabrera and is just as dangerous. Austin Jackson is having a career year nearly hitting over .300, while setting career highs in home runs (16) and Runs Batted In (65).
Who has the advantage? The Rangers, by a slight margin. They can steal bases and their line up as a whole is a bit deeper than the Tigers. Outside of Jackson, Fielder, and Cabrera, it’s been a problem all year finding other players to step up consistently. But, if Cabrera and Fielder keep playing like they are, it could be a long series for the Rangers’ pitching staff.
Not much of a case here for the Tigers as their bullpen has been pretty shaky over the last month. Joaquin Benoit has been giving up the long ball as if he were pitching in a Home Run Derby. Jose Valverde gives Tigers fans everywhere a heart attack every time he takes the mound in the ninth. Phil Coke has had a down year. Brayan Villarreal has put up good numbers, but sometimes his command slips away and he walks too many to be effective. Octavio Dotel has been good in his first year with the Tigers, as has Al Alburquerque since his return from the disabled list. But the Tigers’ pen is sometimes just too ineffective to feel comfortable with in close games.
The Rangers’ bullpen this year has been great. Joe Nathan — another Tiger killer — has had a bounce back year. Ogando, Robbie Ross, Mike Adams, and Koji Uehara have put up great years as they carry their respective bullpen to 10th in the MLB in ERA. The Tigers, on the other hand, ranks 20th.
Who has the advantage? Just like they did last season, the Rangers.
Who will win this series?
I may be biased in thinking Tigers can pull it off and win in a shortened five game series, as Verlander would likely start twice. The Rangers lead the Tigers 7-3 in the regular season record. However, the Tigers’ staff is a lot deeper this time through. But, if the Tigers’ offense decides to crawl up and die like it did last year, I believe the Rangers will take the series in four games.