Well, that was emphatic! Wednesday's rain delay truly served as a mere postponement of the inevitable, as Detroit steamrolled C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees 8-1 to clinch the American League championship. With the sweep, Detroit will have six days to rest before Game 1 of the 2012 World Series next Wednesday night.
Once again, the formula was simple: Another Detroit starter was simply dominant. This time, it was Max Scherzer, who simply overpowered the modified Yankees lineup.
Even without Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, New York has plenty of weapons. It had no bearing against Scherzer, who struck out 10 over 5.2 innings of two-hit ball. Scherzer did not allow a hit until Eduardo Nunez's leadoff triple in the sixth inning.
The major offensive damage came in the fateful fourth inning. Leading 2-0, Omar Infante singled with one out. That set the stage for Miguel Cabrera, who hit a towering home run to left field to make it 4-0. Two batters later, Jhonny Peralta slashed a two-run home run to left, and the game was pretty much over at 6-0.
Sabathia was gone after 3.2 innings and five earned runs allowed. From that point on, the only major drama came with two outs in the sixth. With runners on the corners, Drew Smyly replaced Scherzer and retired pinch-hitter Alex Rodriguez. At that point, the Yankees were done.
Going forward, one has to wonder if the time off will hurt Detroit. Remember the great run Colorado had in 2007? They wound up having to wait nine days between the NLCS and the World Series and were not the same team. However, there is a major difference between that team and this Detroit squad.
The best pitcher for Colorado was Jeff Francis, a 17-game winner with a 4.22 ERA. Detroit's fourth-best starter (Anibal Sanchez) is a better pitcher than Francis was in 2007. The rest is not likely to affect the rotation in the same way. In 27.1 innings, they allowed a ridiculous two runs.
Ultimately, the major question will be: How will Jim Leyland handle his bullpen in the Fall Classic? Will we see Jose Valverde again? Is Phil Coke the new closer? If so, does that move Al Albuquerque or Octavio Dotel out of their usual spots in the bullpen?
It is pretty much an unknown variable at this point. In my opinion, the ninth inning is the only thing that will stop the Tigers bringing their first world championship to the Motor City since 1984.
Either way, what a complete and emphatic turnaround the Tigers have made. The team that many had favored to be in this spot in spring training almost missed the playoffs altogether. Then, they were pushed to a deciding fifth game in the ALDS by a spirited Oakland A's bunch before Justin Verlander's career-defining start clinched that series in Oakland.
Having completely dismissed the big, bad Yankees, the way I see it, the only team that can stop Detroit this time around, is Detroit. I remember the Cardinals upset in 2006. But this Tigers team is constructed completely differently. Each of the four starters is capable of throwing a shutout now. The offense has enough balance to score. It seems like it is just Detroit's time in 2012.
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