Sep 25, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) drops champagne over a team mate after winning the Central Division Championship at Target Field. The Tigers won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
As the Tigers gear up for what could be an epic series against the Oakland A’s, I’m feeling pretty damn good about their chances. And why wouldn’t I be?
Miguel Cabrera has finally had some time to rest his myriad injuries. The man looked like a robot made out of graham crackers as he tried to round the bases or field his position over the last month. His pain was fully evident in nearly everything he did, from his field to his hitting – which was obviously the hardest loss. His season went from “2-time Triple Crown Winner” to “Just make it to first base, please.” Now that he’s had some time to get his legs back under him, one has to assume he’ll be up from 65% efficiency to about 75-80%, and that level of Cabrera is still better than nearly anyone in the postseason.
The pitchers have had a chance to study their opponents. There has been a lot of time to look at film and study the A’s batters, to compile stacks of statistics and tendencies, and with arguably the best starting pitching staff since the ‘90’s Braves that could be all it takes to gain that edge over the red-hot A’s.
They beat the A’s last year in the ALDS, so why not do it again? The A’s return a very similar roster from last season, and the Tigers handled the competition in five games, even winning the deciding game on the road.
The Tigers also have Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and the incomparable Omar Infante all swinging hot bats. Their second halves were much improved, and their performances the month of September were revelatory – this is a team that won with a one-legged Miguel Cabrera contributing a grand total of two extra-base hits all month. Now that those three guys are locked in, the offense still looks imposing.
And boy, do they have postseason experience now. This is their third straight trip to the playoffs, and that veteran experience should come in handy, whether it’s how to approach each game, what mental attitude to adopt, or how to handle games on the road in high-leverage situations. These guys know what to do, and they have proven they can do it well.
There. I feel better.