Austin Jackson Hernan Perez celebrate after scoring in the fourteenth inning. Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
When events on the field are going well, baseball is a beautiful sport, eh Tigers’ fans? When they aren’t, it’s a vile, evil game, eh Tribe fans?
The Detroit Tigers, winners of 11 straight games, are sending Cy Young front runner Max Scherzer to the mound today as they look for a four-game sweep over their second-place rival. It would be very sweet to win this game tonight, however if they don’t, I can’t imagine you will see many Tigers’ fans bursting into the streets and shaking their fist at the sky–probably something that has likely happened in Cleveland on a number of occasions the past three evenings. Winning tonight’s series finale at Progressive Field would be like getting a fourth helping on Thanksgiving: glutenous and tasty, but unnecessary.
Heading into this series, against a red-hot Indians’ team, who were white-hot on their home field, my hope was Detroit would split the four-game set and lose no ground. After all, Cleveland has a good team and Detroit couldn’t continue to push them around on their home field. Could they?
They could. Detroit is now 8-1 in Cleveland this season, with one game remaining. That matches their win total in 27 games in Progressive Field over the previous three seasons. Against everyone else at home, Cleveland is 36-14. Against the rest of the AL Central (home and away), the Tribe is 24-11.
By no means have the Tigers dominated the Indians in this series, but they have been gut-wrenchingly precise. In the first two games, Cleveland held Detroit scoreless in 16 of 18 innings, but two bad innings sealed their fate. On Wednesday the teams punched and counter-punched, but the Tigers were patient and rode their bullpen (Jeremy freakin’ Bonderman) to victory late into the night.
The Indians loss ruined rookie starting pitcher Danny Salazar‘s sorta victory guarantee.
To touch briefly on the “Detroit’s bankrupt” chant–it was silly. I’ve always found humor about American cities to be in bad taste–probably because most Americans regard Detroit as a joke instead of a tragedy. We could all come up with some of our own Cleveland jokes, but what’s the point?
The best response the Tigers’ fans could have was “scoreboard.” The next best response would be to tell a fanbase of a team that is (now) 10 games over .500 to sell more tickets, have more fans, and then they wouldn’t have to worry about a Let’s Go Tigers chant invading Progressive Field.
At worst, the Tigers will head to the Bronx with a five-game divisional lead, at best a bloated seven-game lead. It would be crazy to kiss off the challengers–if its something the Tigers know its losing seemingly insurmountable divisional leads (cough, cough: 2006, 2009), but Detroit has rocked Cleveland. Though a Tribe victory on Thursday would offer a slight silver lining, it has to be demoralizing that the team and the fans geared up for this series and will lose at least two games in the standings.
We still have a rather long portion of the schedule remaining, and anything is possible–but the Tigers are doing all they need to do right now. And that’s all you can ask of them.