Your ALDS Game 2 Preview

If the Tigers hope to move on to yet another ALCS, they’ll have to overcome the AL East champs to do it. Here’s what to watch for today.

Game 1 Recap: Tigers Lose, 12-3

Holy hell. That was no way to start a series, was it? The Tigers got absolutely annihilated last night by the Orioles. Max Scherzer was, ehhhh, so-so at best. He tallied six strikeouts over 7 and 1/3 innings, but also surrendered five earned runs — three of which came by way of the long-ball. In case you didn’t already know, Nelson Cruz is a certified Tiger killer. Baltimore scored 8 runs in the 8th to turn a close game into a blowout. Detroit’s offense could only muster three runs, all on solo homers, even though they worked Baltimore starter Chris Tillman for 105 pitches through 5 innings. Also worth noting is the fact that Rajai Davis looked absolutely terrible. I’ll be surprised if we see him at all again this series.

Justin Verlander vs. Baltimore Hitters 

JV is usually at his best when it matters most. If ever there was an important start this season, today would be the day. The good news is that Verlander has dominated Orioles hitters in his career. Here are his numbers, provided by ESPN.

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Justin is 1-1 on the year against Baltimore with a 4.50 ERA and 7 strikeouts.

Detroit Hitters vs. Wei-Yin Chen

The Orioles will send a lefty to the mound in Chen, whom the Tigers have not seen at all this season. In fact, most of Detroit’s players have never seen Chen at all. See for yourself.

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On the season, the Tigers own a .285/.336/.429 slash line against left-handed starters with 46 homers. All we can hope is that the Tigers can leave Baltimore with a split. Otherwise, they’ll be in a real tough spot when they head back to Detroit.

*****

Make sure to check back here each day the Tigers play throughout the postseason for a preview of what’s to come.

Go Tigers!

Your ALDS Game 1 Preview

The MLB Postseason is upon us, and the Tigers are set to square off against the Baltimore Orioles tonight. They own a 5-1 record against Baltimore on the season, but the two teams have not faced each other since May, when Detroit was playing its very best baseball. If the Tigers hope to move on to yet another ALCS, they’ll have to overcome the AL East champs to do it. Here’s what to watch for tonight.

Detroit ALDS Roster

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The Tigers announced their roster this morning, and opted to include the injured Rajai Davis in the outfield crew. Anibal Sanchez also made the roster, but is expected to be used in a relief role, as he has not started a game since August due to injury. Ausmus also opted for Ezequiel Carrerra over Tyler Collins, probably favoring the former for his speed and defense. Jim Johnson, former Oriole and recent addition to the Tiger ‘pen, did not make the cut.

Baltimore ALDS Roster

Infielders and Outfielders

23 Cruz, Nelson OF
12 De Aza, Alejandro OF
3 Flaherty, Ryan INF
2 Hardy, J.J. INF
14 Johnson, Kelly INF
10 Jones, Adam OF
9 Lough, David OF
21 Markakis, Nick OF
38 Paredes, Jimmy INF
28 Pearce, Steve INF
6 Schoop, Jonathan INF
27 Young, Delmon OF

Catchers

40 Hundley, Nick
36 Joseph, Caleb

Pitchers

35 Brach, Brad RHP
53 Britton, Zach LHP
16 Chen, Wei-Yin LHP
39 Gausman, Kevin RHP
50 Gonzalez, Miguel RHP
29 Hunter, Tommy RHP
31 Jimenez, Ubaldo RHP
48 Miller, Andrew LHP
25 Norris, Bud RHP
56 O’Day, Darren RHP
30 Tillman, Chris RHP

One thing worth noting is the absence of Quintin Berry for the ALDS roster. I can only assume Berry was acquired by the Orioles for his game-changing speed. Berry is an incredibly useful tool as a late-inning pinch runner, as the Tigers found out for themselves a few seasons ago when Berry wore the Old English D. I’m not sure what the Orioles are thinking by leaving a guy off the roster who is essentially an automatic steal in nearly any situation. But I don’t think the Tigers are probably complaining.

Max Scherzer vs. Baltimore Hitters 

Max Scherzer brings an 18-5 record, 252 strikeouts, and a 3.15 ERA into tonight’s game, all impressive numbers. He did not, however, face the Orioles at all during the regular season. Historically, Max has fared decently against Baltimore hitters. Here are the career numbers for Baltimore against Mad Max, as provided by ESPN.

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Scherzer also owns a career 1.66 ERA in the ALDS, snagging 3 wins in 5 starts while racking up 28 strikeouts. Look for him to make Baltimore batters feel silly, in true Mad Max playoff form.

Detroit Hitters vs. Chris Tillman

Tillman faced Detroit one time this year, a five-hit game in which he pitched 8 1/3 innings and allowed only one earned run. The Tigers will hope to fare better against him this time, though their historical numbers against him are not all that great.

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At least it’s a pretty small sampling.

*****

Make sure to check back here each day the Tigers play throughout the postseason for a preview of what’s to come! I’ll see you all on Twitter tonight.

Go Tigers!

Detroit Tigers Regular Season, 2014: A Retrospective

To describe the Detroit Tigers 2014 regular season as an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement. But it would also be obnoxious, because the phrase “emotional rollercoaster” is super annoying, and I wish that whoever had thought it up in the first place would never have burdened us with it. And while the regular season certainly had its ups and downs, there weren’t even any loop-dee-loops or tunnels, and what kind of rollercoaster even is that if it doesn’t have those things? It’s just some fancy-ass carnival ride at that point. But, I digress.

This has been the dawn of a new era for Tigers baseball, and for me, the 2014 Detroit Tigers have somehow seemed like a collection of unfamiliar faces for the duration of the regular season. There were notable departures, new arrivals, injury replacements, and mid-season trades that made this Tigers team feel brand new to me, which was both exciting and unsettling — exciting because they were playing a style of baseball that hadn’t been played in Detroit in quite some time; unsettling because when the chips were down there was often no telling how the team would react. I distinctly remember watching the first game of the season and feeling like I didn’t know who these Tigers were. Maybe it was the fact that the old skipper was no longer out there, instilling faith that even though some of the shipmates were new, the captain was still the same and the sailing would be smooth. Maybe it was the fact that 4 of the 9 starting offensive players wore different uniforms last season. I’m not sure. But I can tell you I forget Nick Castellanos even exists half the time, and I sometimes find myself wishing the Tigers would just please, for the love of God, put Benoit into the game already. It’s been a strange, stressful 162 games, and in some ways that feeling I had on game 1 has never completely gone away.

I, like so many other fans, crowned the Tigers the Central division champs very early in the season. They started the season with two walk-off wins, and roared out to 27-12 start, punctuated by a sweep of the Red Sox in Boston. And then the magic wore off. The Tigers lost 8 of their next 10 games and limped through the rest of the first half. They played right around .500 baseball for the rest of the season: after jumping out to 15 games over .500 by May 2, the Tigers finished the regular season 18 games over .500 on September 28. When the Royals got hot in August, I, like so many other fans, wondered if they Tigers would even make the playoffs.

My wavering faith had some company, too. Over the past few seasons my oldest son has blossomed into a Tigers fan. This is one of my proudest accomplishments as a father, instilling a love for the Tigers in him. But as the Tigers continued to falter semi-regularly, my son’s interest began to diminish. I can’t say I blame him. It isn’t his fault. He isn’t old enough of or mature enough yet to understand the concept of being a fairweather fan, and even if he were, I wouldn’t accuse him of being one. He still cares about the Tigers, still roots for them, still wants them to do well. But he doesn’t always want to watch them anymore. He went to bed angry too many times this summer after staying up to watch the game, only to watch the Tigers get shut out, or see them take a lead into the 9th before watching Joe Nathan piss it away. Now that I think about it, he might actually be smarter than I am: when the Tigers are hurting him, he at least has enough sense to look the other way.

It’s strange to talk about the 2014 regular season in terms of disappointment when your team has just won its fourth straight division crown. I feel guilty and selfish. I feel like I’m acting entitled, and it upsets me. They did win 90 games, after all — only three fewer than they won last year. The Tigers haven’t been this consistently good in my entire life. Still, it’s hard not to feel like this regular season has been marked by letdowns. Perhaps not in the final result, but in many of the steps along the way. In some ways this season has been like a botched road trip — one where you miss your exit, take a wrong turn, get a flat tire, and run out of gas along the way. Sure, you wound up where you were headed in the end, but the entire trip fucking sucked.

Nevertheless, they’ve arrived at their destination. The Tigers are back in the postseason, and are ready to set their sights on the World Series championship that has eluded them since before I was born. And as arduous as the journey here may have been, there exists a sense of relief at having made it, a sense of optimism about what happens next.  Playoff baseball invariably comes down to starting pitching, and the Tigers have plenty of it. Not only that, but Miguel Cabrera seems to have finally hit his stride. Over the last month, he has looked once again like the greatest hitter in baseball. He’s peaking at precisely the right moment, which is certainly a great sign. The Tigers face the Orioles in the ALDS, against whom they own a 5-1 record on the year. But most of all, the playoffs are a fresh start. It’s called the second season for a reason, and now that the Tigers have arrived, anything can happen.

That’s why I feel good today: because anything can happen.

Perhaps the uncertainty I’ve felt about these Tigers all season is due in part to the fact that this group has yet to make any dramatic, lasting impressions. But one thing is for certain: these Tigers are battle tested, an adversity has a way of preparing teams for the most significant challenges.

The Tigers’ biggest challenge begins Thursday. This team, which looks much different than it did last season — and even different than it did in April — will try to maneuver its way through the postseason in the race for the World Series. If they fail, this will go down as a disappointing season, one where the Tigers failed to meet some admittedly lofty expectations.

But if they succeed, the faces on this team will imprint themselves on the memories of Tiger fans for a long, long time. Once they’re imprinted, the faces will suddenly seem much more familiar. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted, really.

Tigers Playoff Picture Update: 9/28

Today is the final day of the 2014 MLB regular season, and the Tigers have taken a tight race with the Royals right down to  the nitty-gritty. The Tigers are already in the playoffs, but a fourth straight division championship depends on what happens today. Here’s everything you need to know about their quest to bring home the pennant.

Magic Number: 1

“The Magic Number” indicates the combined number of favorable outcomes the Tigers need to clinch the division. A favorable outcome is a Tigers victory or a Royals loss. 

Current AL Central Standings

  1. Detroit (89-72)
  2. Kansas City (88-73)
  3. Cleveland (84-77)
  4. Chicago (73-88)
  5. Minnesota (70-91)

Current AL Wild Card Standings (GB)

  1. Kansas City (Clinched: +1)
  2. Oakland ( –)
  3. Seattle (-1)

Oakland, who seemed like a shoo-in to win their division and roll into the postseason around the All-Star Break, finds themselves in a tough spot. If they win today, they’ll secure their place as the second Wild Card team. If they lose today, and Seattle wins, then the Mariners will take the second Wild Card slot. The Mariners will face the Angels today to try and sneak into the postseason for the first time since 2008.

What Happened Yesterday?

The Tigers got their asses handed to them by the Twins, who were all like, “Hey Tigers, here you go. We got something for you. IT’S YOUR ASSES.” Luckily, however, the Royals also lost, trimming Detroit’s magic number to 1. Which brings us to…

What’s Happening Today?

Although it would have certainly been nice to run away with the division like the Tigers should have, it’s sort of perfect that on the final day of the season the Tigers’ fate is in their own hands. It’s pretty simple: if they win today, the Tigers will capture their fourth straight division title. If they lose today, well, all they can hope is that the Royals do the same. Otherwise it’s going to be a Game 163 situation, and the last time the Tigers played a Game 163 it ended in heartbreak. Also fittingly, the Tigers will send deadline-acquisition David Price to the mound, who was to be the missing piece in the Tigers’ hopes for contention. We’ll see if it pays dividends.

The Royals square off against the White Sox today. As long as the Tigers win, what the Royals do doesn’t matter. But let’s just hope they lose for good measure.

Are the Tigers Going to Win the Division?

Ask them. They’re the only ones who can answer that question at this point.