We’re only two days away from the regular season, but it’s still quite unclear who the Tigers will face in the first round of the playoffs. I broke down the potential tiebreak scenarios earlier, but perhaps it’s a good time to pay some attention to the most likely opponent: the Texas Rangers.
Chris Iott of MLive tells us why the Rangers are the most likely opponent:
the Yankees and Rangers now have the same record with just two games remaining this season, and the Yankees hold the tiebreaker over the Rangers. If the season ended today, the Yankees would play the winner of a wild-card game between the Orioles and the A’s.
I’ve been hoping for anyone but Texas (with preference to Baltimore and Oakland), but it appears as though I may not get my wish. The Tigers were royally drubbed versus the Rangers this season, winning only three of the ten games, which makes it seem like they would be also pounded in a playoff series. But the wins and losses weren’t built equally. This becomes readily apparent when we look at the starting pitchers Detroit tossed out for those ten games.
Texas really teed off against the Tigers’ number four and five pitchers during the season, but they won’t have the opportunity to do that in the American League Division Series. Max Scherzer appears to be healthy – he’s said he’s going to pitch in Wednesday’s season finale – and if that’s the case there’s no way either Porcello or Smyly would start a playoff game (Wilk, of course, will be allowed no where near the team).
The Tigers actually acquitted themselves well in the games started by their top three guys. A 2-2 record isn’t dominating by any means, but I’ll certainly take that versus a team like the Rangers, especially considering three of the four games took place in Arlington, Texas.
Detroit is going to have to rely heavily on their pitching staff this October – especially if they’re up against an offense heavy Rangers squad – but it will be Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez (who didn’t face Texas) that take the mound to start each of the games, not Porcello, Smyly, and Wilk. That doesn’t completely tip the advantage over to the Tigers, but it goes a long way toward evening things up.