Matt Snyder wrote here at MCB today that – for all the hyperbole – game 3 isn’t technically a must-win game for the Detroit Tigers. That is technically true. What IS technically (and in all other ways) true is that the Tigers must win 2 of the 3 games in Detroit just to extend the series and fly back to San Francisco. [According to The Onion, the Tigers need only win 1 of the first 2 games in Detroit - but that is to save the Detroit economy as opposed to actually winning the World Series.]
I’d take that a step farther: in order to have any reasonable hope of winning the World Series the Tigers need to win not only tonight’s game 3, but all 3 of their home games in the World Series. If they do so they will head back to San Francisco with a 3-2 series lead, needing only a split to be crowned champions. Even if they do so, the odds are probably not going to be in the Tigers favor. I’m talking here not about what is theoretically possible, but about what is feasible or achievable.
Why? The Tigers are – for some inexplicable reason – an absolutely horrible road team, particularly on the offensive end. They did manage to take 2 in New York against a Yankees team that had lost the ability to create runs somewhere along the road to the ALCS. But… remember the ALCS against the A’s? The Tigers took the first two in Detroit and we figured the series would be over quickly – they then lost the next two and needed Verlander to shut Oakland down in game 5 to advance. So far in the postseason, the Tigers are 4-0 at home and 3-4 on the road. Sound familiar? The Tigers were 19 games over .500 at home during the regular season (tied for 2nd best in the AL) and 5 games under .500 on the road (good for 8th in the AL). I wrote a whole piece on this a couple of weeks ago, but for some bizarre reason Tigers hitters seem to swing and miss a lot on the road and hit hard grounders right at somebody whenever they come to the plate with men on. So far in the postseason the difference has been pitching and defense: Tiger pitchers have allowed 1.75 runs per game at home compared to 4 per game on the road [the difference in runs scored is 4.5 per at home to 4.2 per on the road].
The Tigers will also be putting two more stud starters out there before Verlander takes his second shot in game 5. For all the yapping about Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain and how they have performed in the playoffs, they are not better pitchers than Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer nor have they pitched better in the playoffs thus far than Sanchez and Scherzer. Vogelsong and Cain are also right-handed, and for poorly understood reasons the Tigers offense has been impotent against all but the most talented of lefty starters this season. I should also mention that for the next three games Delmon Young will not be playing in the field. These are reasons for optimism and/or hope, but what we’re really counting on to change the Tigers apparent bad luck or rust is the simple act of going home.