2013 ALDS: Burning Questions (Detroit Tigers-Oakland A's)
Welcome back to Burning Questions with Monday Morning Manager (MMM)! They are presented today as the ALDS as a whole, but going forward they will appear after every postseason Tigers game.
So what sticks out in your mind after another thrilling five-game ALDS between the Tigers and the A's?
That MMM is sure glad Justin Verlander plays for the Tigers. Max Scherzer, too. Contrary to the eight runs scored in Game 4 and the just-what-the-doctor-ordered homer by Miguel Cabrera in Game 5, it was clutch pitching that carried the Tigers. Scherzer got a win as a starter and in relief, and Verlander twirled 15 scoreless frames. Joaquin Benoit did his thing, albeit shakily at times. Pitching was the cream that rose to the top for the Tigers in this series.
Did Jim Leyland wait too long to get Jhonny Peralta's bat in the lineup?
Yes, but MMM sort of understands. The first two games were played in Oakland and Leyland clearly wasn't warm and fuzzy about playing JP in left field, especially in an unfamiliar ballpark. You saw how Yoenis Cespedes' triple in Game 1 ate up Andy Dirks.
But as the series moved on and with the Tigers in desperate need of an offensive spark, Leyland almost had to use Peralta. Besides, why give him a crash course in playing left field, get him as many at-bats as possible in Miami to close the season and place him on the playoff roster, if you're not going to play him?
It was also right to play Peralta at shortstop in Game 5, as Jose Iglesias has been channeling Eddie Brinkman as of late. The Tigers' needs were definitely more on the offensive side of the ledger heading into that decisive game.
Did Cabrera's home run in Game 5 put some fears to rest about his physical capabilities?
Yes and no. It showed that he can still pull a ball that's inside, when he doesn't need his legs as much. But as far as MMM is concerned, Miggy still hasn't shown that he still has that eye-opening power to the opposite field.
There are still concerns, and there should be.
Where does Verlander's performance in Game 5 rank, both in Tigers history and his own history?
Don't forget Game 2, when he went seven scoreless and fanned 11 but got nothing to show for it.
As far as Game 5, it was just another example of why JV is a true "money" pitcher. He's the Jack Morris of his day, sans the surliness with the media. It ranks right up there in team history, though MMM still places Mickey Lolich's gutsy Game 7 in the 1968 World Series ahead of Thursday's effort, because it came on two days' rest and it was truly for all the marbles.
Suddenly everyone forgets about what Scherzer did!
Not necessarily. Max gets series MVP from yours truly. He got the Tigers off on the right foot in Game 1, and even though the mess was his own creation, Mad Max pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in relief in Game 4, which clearly might have saved the Tigers' season.
But with Verlander on his game, it might be time to just declare that the Tigers have a 1 and a 1A when it comes to pitching aces.
What's wrong with Austin Jackson?
A-Jax has always been a streaky hitter, and this is obviously one of those bad streaks. When Jackson struggles, he doesn't even make contact, which is what is happening now. MMM is worried that Jackson is swinging right through low-90s fastballs that have no movement. But Jackson can come out of it just as mysteriously as he sank into it.
MMM remembers Nelson Cruz and what he did to the Tigers in the 2011 ALCS. But in the ALDS against Tampa, Cruz was brutal. So it really can turn around quickly. Also, Placido Polanco was the MVP of the 2006 ALCS but didn't even get a hit in the five-game World Series that followed. Baseball is funny that way.
So what about the Red Sox in the ALCS?
Not feeling too good about it, mainly because under Jim Leyland, the Tigers have been ugly in Boston. They haven't won a series there since 2006. Yes, this is the postseason, and yes, the Tigers have world-class pitching, but the Red Sox are a scoring machine and chewed up and spat out a pretty good trio of Rays starters in the ALDS.
Sadly, MMM sees the Red Sox winning in six games.
Nah, just a realist.
That's what all pessimists say.
OK, smarty pants, what should MMM be optimistic about?
The Tigers' pitching and the signs that the offense may be perking up.
The Red Sox are on a roll and their pitchers aren't too shabby, either—especially the bullpen. But MMM hears what you're saying. If the Tigers can somehow manage a split in Games 1 and 2, then maybe MMM would re-think things. But as it stands now, the Red Sox look to be the team of destiny.
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