Is tonight’s game a must-win for the Detroit Tigers?


Jun 11, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago White Sox celebrate their win at U.S Cellular Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers 8-2. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It is not often when you describe a baseball game in June as a “must-win,” but could tonight’s series finale in Chicago be a must-win for the sputtering Detroit Tigers?

In a word: YES.

Even hardcore fans are having trouble watching this team right now. They keep expecting something, anything to go wrong–and in 16 of the last 22 games, anything and everything has gone wrong.

This is leading many to believe with Chris Sale (5-0, 2.06) on the mound tonight for the Chicago White Sox (33-33) that its a foregone conclusion that the Tigers (33-28) will lose.

This is truly a make-it-or-break-it moment for Detroit. Their seven-game divisional lead on May 18 is down to two games, and they are staring at the prospect of being swept for a third time in their last six series since attaining the now infamous 27-12 record.

Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

If the Tigers could somehow manage to get some offense, and reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer recaptures some of that 2013 magic, it can happen. And, should the Tigers right the ship and win the AL Central for the fourth straight year, this game–on June 12–may be the one we all look back on as the turning point.

So how can the Tigers beat the unbeatable Sale?

  • Use past experiences against the lefty: Since the Tigers reign over the AL Central began in 2011, Detroit has fared better than most teams against Chris Sale. He has a 3-4 record against the Tigers in that time with a 3.12 ERA. The recent trends are not good, however. Last year he was 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA in five starts and has a win this year, in which he threw a shutout. Still they have done it in the past and can do it again.
  • Take pitches: The best way to beat Chris Sale? Get him out of the game. I’ve really had enough of the seven pitch innings for opposing starters. The Tigers hitters, most notably Torii Hunter, constantly go to the plate hacking at the first pitch and either pop it up or set themselves up for a strikeout 2 to 3 pitches later. Work the count, work the pitch count and take your chances against the bullpen.
  • The defense needs to be perfect: No cheap runs for the White Sox offense, don’t give fourth or fifth outs.
  • Scherzer needs to be nearly unhittable: We all know Max has it in him to shut down any offense. The Tigers need that tonight as runs figure to be at a premium.

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The Tigers are going to go one of two ways. Either they’ll continue to flounder and pull the classic Detroit Lions move of just giving up and accepting the philosophy of “we’re just not that good, but at least we’re still getting paid.” Or they will finally wake up and realize they are wasting a genuine shot at a championship–and perhaps the last for this team in its current form.

I hope a win tonight will start us on the road to the latter.