Over the past two, the Tigers have dropped three of four series: dropping 3 of 4 at home against the Oakland A’s, dropping 2 of 3 to the Boston Red Sox, and dropping 2 of 3 to the Kansas City Royals. The good thing is that the Tigers did take 2 of 3 from the Cleveland Indians which should have put the AL Central out of reach.
Should the Tigers still be worried about the Tribe? There are some things that make some Tigers fans cringe, but there are more things that should put the fans’ minds at ease. The Indians sit at 5.5 games back now with 19 games remaining for the Tigers and 20 for the Indians. The magic number for the Tigers is 15 with 10 of their remaining games at home and 9 on the road against the Indians’ schedule that holds 9 games at home and 11 on the road.
What is alarming is the fact that the Indians have a better record against 23 of the 28 other teams in the league. Both teams have an easy schedule down these last 20 games as the Tigers play an average win percentage of .445 and the Indians of .438. If the Tigers can take care of business and go 10-9 in their last 19, the Indians would have to go 16-4 just to force a 1 game playoff. Tigers fans should not worry about getting to the playoffs, they should worry as much about getting to the playoffs as much as they should about what will happen once they get there.
Two of the series that the Tigers dropped were against Oakland and Boston who are 98.0 and 99.9% locks to make the playoffs. If the season ended today, the Texas Rangers would play the Tampa Bay Rays for the right to play the Red Sox and the Tigers would play the A’s.
Oakland owns a 4-3 advantage over the Tigers, with both teams winning series on the other’s home field. In the month of September, the pitching for the Tigers has an ERA of 5.47 and the Tigers have only scored 27 runs. Many people will point to the Boston game which ended 20-4 as a place for doom, but the Boston series actually was not as bad as people think. This game told us what we already knew which is the Tigers bullpen can be terrible at times. That one game was just that: one game. It counted the same as the 4-3 loss to the Royals on Saturday.
The Tigers took a game at Fenway and took 3 of 4 in the series at Comerica which would give the Tigers a 4-3 series win if the Tigers got home field advantage, in which they are 4 games back. The Tigers in all likelihood will not catch the Sox so if they want to win the World Series, they will need to make sure the starting pitching will not have another implosion like in the Oakland series and they will probably have to conquer Fenway for a game or two.
For the Tigers to win the World Series, they will need to get consistent starts from Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, and most importantly Justin Verlander who had another shaky start against Royals after a very good start against the Indians. The starting pitching will have to carry this team, because once the bullpen is pitching against good teams, well, you saw what happened in Boston. The lineup will still need to produce and get/stay healthy, but as the San Francisco Giants showed last year, good pitching beats good hitting and wins championships