Detroit Tigers: Ranking the 5 Toughest Series Left on the Tigers' Docket
Considering all the hype and expectations going into the 2012 campaign, if Detroit misses the playoffs this year it would be among one of the most disappointing results in Tigers team history.
The Tigers have been inconsistent all season, but with just over a month to go in the regular season, Detroit can't afford to lose many more games.
The Tigers will be familiar with most of their opponents down the stretch, playing 27 of their last 33 against AL Central division foes.
Detroit has lost both of the first two games in its three-game road series against the Kansas City Royals, and with 10 series left, here are the five toughest series left on the Tigers docket:
5) Away vs. Minnesota Twins: Sept. 28-Sept.30
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Season Series: Tigers lead 7-5
Last Series: Tigers won 2-of-3 on the road
Despite the Minnesota Twins sitting in the basement of the AL Central, the Tigers might have some trouble when they travel to Target Field in the season's second-to-last series at the end of September.
The Tigers will most likely be fighting for their playoff lives, while the Twins, who will have nothing to lose, will try to spoil Detroit's run at the postseason.
The Tigers have been good in Minnesota the past two years, going 12-3 at Target Field since 2011, but for one reason or another, the Twins always seems to play the Tigers tough.
Minnesota boasts six players who are hitting .300 or better against Detroit this season, including Ryan Doumit, who's killed Tigers pitching this year with a .387 average, including a .474 on-base percentage.
The Twins are just 53-77 this season, but the Tigers' division rivals would love nothing more than to ruin Detroit's bid for back-to-back playoff appearances.
The Tigers should win at least two games in this series, but for the Twins, this will be their postseason, and they're going to give Detroit everything it can handle.
4) Away vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Sept. 7-9
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Season Series: Tigers lead 5-2
Last Series: Tigers won 2-of-3 at home (including last two)
Albert Pujols and The Los Angeles Angeles are having a disappointing year, and may be the one team in MLB that has underachieved more than the Tigers.
On Sept. 7, the Tigers begin their second-to-last road trip of the year the second week of September, starting against the Angels.
Despite the Angels sitting at 67-62 and in fourth place in the AL West as of Thursday, it's never easy to waltz into Angel Stadium and come out with a series victory.
The Angels are one of the better teams in the AL at home this season at 35-29, and are playing better as of late.
Playing on the West Coast is always a little challenging, and the Tigers will need to give the Angels all of their focus and avoid looking ahead to the following series on the road against the Chicago White Sox.
3) Home vs. Oakland Athletics: Sept. 18-20
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Season Series: Tied 2-2
The Oakland Athletics were the hottest team in baseball to start the second half of this season. Brandon Inge and the A's cruised out to a 10-1 record after the All-Star break, and after falling back to Earth for most of August, Oakland is back at it again, riding a five-game win streak and going 8-2 in its last 10 games.
The A's have been a tough team to figure out this season, with no star power to speak of, but it appears General Manager Billy Beane is back to his old tricks, making "Moneyball" work in his favor.
Josh Reddick, the A's fourth-year right fielder, leads Oakland in every major offensive category in his first year with the team, and will look to inch the Athletics closer to their first playoff appearance since 2006.
Former Tiger Brandon Inge, who is expected to come off the disabled list this week, would love nothing more than to come into Detroit and play his tail off, show the Tigers what they gave up and go away with a series win.
It will be an emotional series for the A's third baseman, who's hitting .216 with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs. And the Athletics (72-57)—who are 4.5 games back of the Texas Rangers for first place in the AL West—will be fighting for their playoff lives, with just a handful of games left in the regular season.
2) Home vs. Chicago White Sox Aug. 31-Sept. 2
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Season Series: Tigers lead 7-4
Last Series: Tigers swept three-game series at home
The two toughest, and undoubtedly the two most most important series left this season are the home-and-home meetings against the Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers welcome the White Sox to Comerica Park on Friday for a three-game series this weekend that will be crucial if the Tigers want to take steps toward re-taking first place in the division.
Detroit is 5-1 at home against the Sox this season, but Chicago has played extremely well lately, and will definitely remember being on the wrong end of the broom last time they traveled to Detroit, getting swept in the middle of July.
1) Away vs. Chicago White Sox Sept. 10-13
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The Tigers are 2-3 at U.S. Cellular Field this season, but they have played Chicago tough on the road the past few seasons, going 14-9 since 2010.
The White Sox are one of the best teams in the league this season at home, going 38-26 so far this season, and will look to improve on that home mark against the second-place Tigers.
The Tigers will have to focus on making someone other than the newest White Sox player to beat them. Kevin Youkilis is loving playing in his new home ballpark, averaging .351 with a .490 OBP, eight home runs and 22 RBIs in just 22 games at home this season
It will be the second time in less than two weeks that these two teams meet, and the momentum from whoever won the first series will go a long way in deciding this one—and this series will ultimately decide who will be crowned AL Central champion.