The Detroit Tigers are still awaiting their World Series opponent after sweeping the New York Yankees in the ALCS. It took a complete team effort to eliminate the Yankees, and the same will be true in the Fall Classic regardless of which NL team survives.
While contributions will be needed from every player on the roster, from the superstars to the unsung heroes, a trio of players is the key to success for Detroit.
Let's break down those pivotal pieces as the Tigers seek their first title in nearly three decades.
The dynamic duo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder garners most of the attention, but it's Jackson who sets the table for the Tigers offense. His ability to do so many different things out of the leadoff spot puts a lot of pressure on the opposing starter from the very first pitch.
Jackson had the best regular season of his career, hitting .300 with 16 home runs, 12 stolen bases and 103 runs scored. Even those basic numbers illustrate the various different ways he can make an impact without even mentioning his rock-solid defense.
His strong play has continued in the playoffs with a .350 on-base percentage and seven runs in the first two series. If he keeps wreaking havoc atop the order, getting in scoring position for the sluggers, the Tigers offense will continue to thrive.
The Tigers haven't announced their rotation for the World Series, making it unclear what Jim Leyland plans to do with his ace. While it's possible Verlander could start three games if the series goes the distance, starts in Games 1 and 5 seems more likely.
Verlander is the ultimate game-changing player in the series format. His ability to completely shut down opposing lineups, paired with Detroit's potent offense, makes the opposing team feel like it's playing from behind before the series even starts.
Since either the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants know winning the games he starts will be an uphill battle, they start trying to figure out different routes to the title. He presents a major mental hurdle the Yankees and Oakland Athletics weren't able to jump.
Like the rotation, Leyland hasn't announced who will close games for the Tigers in the World Series. That said, given Coke's strong performance after filling in for the shaky Jose Valverde, it would be surprising if he wasn't the choice.
If there's one thing both the Cardinals and Giants have shown in the postseason, it's resiliency. They don't surrender until the final out, which will make Coke's job of closing the door tricky. It will be the most pressure he's faced in his career.
He's pitched well throughout the playoffs, giving up no runs in seven appearances. If he continues to pitch at that level to go along with the Tigers' stout starting staff, Detroit will be in great shape.
After all, the final outs are always the toughest ones.
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