The Detroit Tigers are facing a steep climb, now down three-games-to-one in the ALCS. Only four American League clubs have ever come back from such a deficit to advance to the World Series.
The good news is that they’ll start Justin Verlander this afternoon and line up Max Scherzer and Doug Fister for games six and seven. On paper at least, the Tigers should have an edge on the mound for these next three games.
Of course, the pitching hasn’t been the problem in this series, at least not before the 11th inning of a couple of games. The Rangers offense averaged 5.3 runs per games during the season, but the Tigers have held them to three, three, two, and three runs during the first nine innings of the games in this series.
You can, I suppose, lay some blame for last night’s defeat on the head of Jose Valverde. It was he, after all, that yielded the four runs in the 11th inning. Remember though that Valverde was working on his third straight day and the Nelson Cruz home run came on the 61st pitch that he had thrown since Monday. Valverde doesn’t throw 60 pitches in a week at times during the season. To expect him to not give it up sooner or later during this stretch was asking too much.
The biggest issue, as we know, is the attrition that has taken place with the lineup. The injuries that have befallen Brennan Boesch, Magglio Ordonez, Delmon Young, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila have more than taken a toll, even if a few of those guys are trying to play through their ailments.
If the Tigers are to win tonight, they’ll likely have to count on a long start from Verlander, perhaps even a complete game effort. Valverde and Joaquin Benoit are gassed and probably shouldn’t be used at all. If a reliever is needed, the Tigers will have to turn to Phil Coke and simply ignore the lefty-righty splits.
It’s a bleak future facing the Tigers tonight. One more loss and the season is over. But if they can find a way to get this win, they’ll get a much-needed off day before heading to Texas. They don’t have to win three straight games against the Rangers, just they just have win one game tonight and repeat that formula again and then again.