Creative Commons James Marvin Phelps http://goo.gl/EBWNPM
#2: 1987 Detroit Tigers (98-64, 2 GA of Toronto Blue Jays)
The Detroit Tigers horribly underachieved in the two seasons following their fourth, and most recent, title. They tumbled 20 games in the standings in 1985 and fell to third place. They ascended to three more wins but remained in third place in 1986.
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The core of 1984 team had started to slowly fall off. Lance Parrish was gone, replaced by unknown rookie catcher Matt Nokes who ended up having an incredible first season. Because of those two lost seasons in ’85 and ’86, the Tigers were not given much of chance to compete in the tough AL East with the defending AL champion Red Sox and an up and coming Toronto Blue Jays.
The season started out flat, with an 11-19 record in April, but Detroit began to heat up in May. Ascending up the standings, they could not quite get past Toronto and the teams played a couple of memorable series in the final two weekends of the year.
Playing in four games in old Exhibition Field, Toronto seemingly put the division out of reach by taking the first three games, each by a single run, before Kirk Gibson rallied the Tigers late in an extra innings victory.
Going back to Tiger Stadium for a final home stand, the Tigers needed to be near perfect on the week to overcome a 3.5-game deficit in the standings. They didn’t do themselves any favors by dropping two of three to Baltimore before Toronto came in for the final series of the regular season.
The Blue Jays could have wrapped up the division with a couple wins against Milwaukee, but dropped all three home games before coming to Detroit.
The Tigers tied the division with a win on Friday night and could guarantee at least a one-game playoff with a win on Saturday. It would go into the 12th inning before Alan Trammell brought home Jim Walewander to earn the hard-fought 3-2 victory.
It was a remarkable comeback for the 98-win Tigers who were led by Trammell (who was robbed for the MVP that year) with a .343 average, 28 homers and 105 RBIs. Darrell Evans and Nokes hit 66 homers between them and Tanana, Jack Morris, and Walt Terrell were solid on the mound. The trade with Atlanta for Doyle Alexander (with John Smoltz in exchange) made all the difference as the veteran went 9-0 down the stretch.
The Tigers were the heavy favorite to win it all heading into the playoffs, but the crazy two weekends against Toronto seemed to sap the energy of the aging club. Despite winning just 85 games in the regular season, the Minnesota Twins steamrolled the Tigers, winning the ALCS in five games.
Detroit finished a game back in 1988, but would not even sniff the postseason until 2006.