MLB Playoffs 2011: 5 Reasons the Detroit Tigers Will Complete a Series Comeback
While Texas manager Ron Washington was jumping up and down like a giddy school girl in the dugout during the Rangers' seemingly apparent series-sealing victory, the Detroit Tigers' playoff run seemed to be like Kevin Costner's acting career. Dead.
There was little hope for the Motor City Kitties as their bats had failed to show up and their ace, Justin Verlander, would be unavailable late in the series for any possible Game 7.
The Tigers, however, fought off the Rangers in Game 5. Their bats picked up and their dynamic duo at the back end of the bullpen was able to get much needed rest.
Tonight, the Tigers' next step in their comeback begins and they'll finish it tomorrow night, shocking the Rangers in front of their home crowd.
Here's why it will happen.
1. Their Hottest Starters Are Going
Of course I'd want Justin Verlander pitching in either Game 6 or Game 7. He had the greatest season by a starter in perhaps 20 years.
However, the Tigers' two best starters this postseason have actually been the two guys that the Rangers are going to get.
Max Scherzer made the New York Yankees look foolish in his road start during the Tigers' Game 2 ALDS win, then he followed it up with a strong effort in Game 2 of the ALCS. He struck out six Rangers and held them to three runs.
Doug Fister completely stymied the Rangers' offense in Game 3 of the ALCS. If starting-mate Scherzer can get the Tigers through tonight, they have to be the favorite in Game 7 with Fister on the mound.
2. The Rangers' Starters? Eh, Not so Hot
While the Tigers have their hottest current starters going, the Rangers can't say the same.
Derek Holland was chased early against the Tigers in Game 2. After starting strong, the Tigers got to him in the fourth inning. In order to win Game 6, they're going to have to jump on him early and get the lead for Max Scherzer.
Colby Lewis, who will get the nod for the Rangers tomorrow, let up eight hits, two walks and four runs over five-and-two-thirds innings in the Rangers' Game 3 loss.
In a possible Game 7 against the Tigers' best pitcher over the last two months (yes, Doug Fister has been better than Justin Verlander during that time), Lewis will have to pitch much better or the Rangers will be eliminated.
With elimination looking the Tigers squarely in the face, they finally got a break.
Ryan Raburn singled to lead off the sixth. Miguel Cabrera hit what was a surefire double-play ball to Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.
A double play by the adept fielding Beltre would have no doubt squashed the inning and perhaps the Tigers' hopes. No matter what they've done, things haven't seemed to go their way.
Instead, fate shined on the Tigers. The ball hit third before Beltre could get to it and careened toward the left field corner.
The Tigers went on to hit the natural cycle as a team and the rest is history. Don't discount a play such as this. Just when it seemed that the Rangers were in control and everything was going their way, destiny turned on them.
4. A Rested Bullpen
No doubt the Tigers' number one biggest need going into the 2011 offseason is bullpen depth. The bullpen is effectively only a two-man bullpen, but there's nothing they can do about that now.
Anyone outside of Joaquin Benoit or Jose Valverde has ranged for erratic to completely ineffective during the playoffs.
Because of this, the duo has been taxed heavily, and it showed during Valverde's extra-innings implosion in Game 5.
Thanks to a lengthy start by Justin Verlander in Game 5, an offense that gave the staff a cushion and a good enough effort by Phil Coke to close the game out, Benoit and Valverde and rested and ready to go.
5. The Managers
Like most Tigers fans, I've been critical of Jim Leyland.
Over the last couple months, and especially in this series, I'm convinced he's the man for the job. I'm also certain he's a better manager than Ron Washington.
Washington has made some very questionable calls this series. Questionable lineups, running when he shouldn't, making ill-advised pitching changes, intentionally walking/not intentionally walking Miguel Cabrera at the right times and so on, and so on.
The Rangers have won in spite of Washington, not because of him. With Delmon Young injured, Alex Avila and Victor Martinez hobbled and Justin Verlander not in top form, the Rangers should have run away with this series.
Instead, Jim Leyland has made all the right calls to keep the Tigers in it. That will continue over the next two days as the Detroit Tigers complete their comeback.