Detroit Tigers: 5 Unsung Heroes Who Could Help Lead Them to the World Series
After an impressive 3-1 victory against the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the ALDS, many Tiger fans are wondering who will step up to help both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
This is an excellent question, as both Cabrera and Fielder went a combined 0-for-7 with Cabrera earning one walk.
There is no doubt that the dynamic duo in the middle of Detroit's lineup will need some help, but who will the Tigers lean on to help propel them to their first World Series since 2006?
While the big three of Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder receive a lot of attention, and deservedly so, there are some other players on Detroit's roster who will make their presence felt during the Tigers' postseason run.
Here are five unsung heroes that will help Detroit advance to the World Series.
While many people will assume this choice is simply based on his big game during Game 1 of the ALDS, Alex Avila is truly poised to be a major factor for Detroit this postseason.
Alex Avila, who went 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a single, certainly did his part to help seal a Game 1 victory.
However, Avila plays a huge role in terms of his ability to control a ballgame from behind the plate. It often goes unnoticed, but Avila does an incredible job, along with the pitchers, of controlling the game.
Having Avila behind the plate makes Justin Verlander even better, which is hard for many to even fathom.
Many will turn to his postseason numbers from last year, which followed an incredible season where Avila went to the All-Star game. Avila went 3-for-41, which is an average of .073, and only accumulated two walks.
After only hitting .243 during the regular season, Alex Avila is poised to be a surprise impact player. If he can continue to delver big hits at critical times, the Tigers will have a legitimate chance to go all the way this season.
Even though his beginning in Detroit was a little rough, Anibal Sanchez finished out his regular season in fine fashion.
In his last five appearances, Sanchez appeared in 34.2 innings and accumulated an ERA of 2.86 with 35 strikeouts and only four walks. More impressively, his WHIP average (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) was 0.865.
Sanchez pitched so well near the end of the regular season that he earned his spot in the Tigers' postseason rotation over Porcello, who has been relegated to the bullpen.
While Doug Fister will be pitching Game 2 of the ALDS, Sanchez will get the nod in Game 3 in order to allow Max Scherzer some more time to recover and prepare for his next start.
If Sanchez can continue to pitch to his potential as he has been recently, the Tigers will be poised not only to win the ALDS, but to also make a serious run at a World Series championship.
One player that had a quietly huge season for Detroit was Andy Dirks.
During the regular season, Dirks hit .322 with an OBP of .370 in a total of 88 games. It is for this reason that the Tigers are hoping for big things from him during October.
Dirks went 1-for-3 in Game 1 of the ALDS while hitting in the six-hole of the Tigers' lineup.
In his last 11 games, Dirks has been on fire, going 15-for-41 and hitting .366.
If he can continue this torrid pace during the postseason, Dirks will find a permanent place in the Tigers' lineup throughout much of October.
He also provides a crucial left-handed bat for Jim Leyland, who likes to alternate his right- and left-handed hitters throughout his lineup in order to create challenges and mismatches for opposing pitchers.
Look for Dirks to continue taking advantage of his opportunities at the plate each and every chance he gets.
It is safe to say that Tigers nation held its collective breath when Brandon Moss drilled Joaquin Benoit's pitch to the right field wall where Andy Dirks brought it in just feet away from becoming a home run that would tie the game.
Even though his numbers aren't as impressive as 2011, Joaquin Benoit will be an important piece of the Tigers' championship run.
During Game 1, Benoit earned the hold by striking out one batter and throwing a total of 14 pitches, 10 of them being strikes.
However, Benoit has been struggling in his last 11 games, where he has an ERA of 7.36 in 11 total innings.
While those numbers look ugly, Benoit's overall postseason numbers are very impressive. Going back to his time with Tampa Bay, Benoit has a postseason ERA of 0.79 in 11.1 innings. Not only has he accumulated 12 strikeouts during those innings, but he has also only given up one run.
It is because of this that Detroit fans all across the nation can rest easy when Benoit takes the hill.
Even after a mediocre regular season, Benoit will be a major piece to Detroit's championship puzzle.
This guy is fun to watch. Not only because he plays the game with a unwavering determination, but also because he just loves to play the game.
Berry had a big night during Game 1, even though he has seen his playing time diminish as the season has progressed.
He went 2-for-3, and he made some key defensive plays while playing left field.
While Berry has no postseason experience to compare, what he brings to the Tigers' lineup this season will be instrumental.
When he is not starting, he will provide some incredible speed off of the bench, especially late in games when runs become harder to find and even more important.
Some may say he will not be able to duplicate his performance in Game 1 due to his regular-season downhill slide, as he went 10-for-47 in his last 15 games. However, we should also note that he went a perfect 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts this season.
Berry's speed will give the Tigers something they desperately lacked during the 2011 postseason, and his persistence and love for the game will be be contagious in the Tigers' clubhouse.