2012 Top 10 Stories: #2 – Tigers Win the Pennant

Given how the Tigers’ 2012 season went, months of frustration and a division title that came at the 11th hour, a trip to the World Series was far from assured. Far.

As dominoes fell late in the year, the Tigers ALDS opponent depended on which team, the A’s or Rangers, won the A.L. West. They might play the Orioles. Or the A’s. Or the Yankees. No matter which club they played in the first round, a bad match up could’ve been awaiting the Tigers.

In the end, it was the red-hot A’s which vanquished the Rangers in a stunning sweep to end the season. The good news was that the series, thanks to baseball’s new two-three scheduling, started at Comerica Park and not in Oakland where the A’s had mixed up an amazing collection of comeback wins in 2012. Even with Justin Verlander starting Game 1 against rookie Jarrod Parker, the A’s had a kind of juju that made Tigers fans (at least this one) nervous.

A leadoff  home run by Coco Crisp didn’t help. But the Tigers cobbled together enough offense to take the game 3-1. (And who knew we’d witnessed Jose Valverde‘s final save as Tigers closer. More on that in a moment.)

Game 2 featured shaky relief work by Joaquin Benoit and walkoff heroics by Don Kelly to secure a 5-4 win and a 2-0 series lead. Out in Oakland, the series tightened after the A’s won Game 3 and mounted a late comeback in Game 4 to force a winner-take-all Game 5. Thankfully, Verlander was locked in and the Tigers offense gave him plenty of support to send Detroit to the ALCS for the second consecutive year – but this time against the Yankees.

Was I alone in thinking the Tigers were due for the Yankees to exact revenge for New York’s 2006 and 2011 exits? No? Well, I prepared myself for that possibility.

The ALCS got off to a tremendous start in Game 1 with the Tigers leading 4-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth. That’s when Valverde brought to life the worst-case scenario – one like fans witnessed in Game 4 of the ALDS when he surrendered three runs to give the A’s a walkoff win. This time, Valverde gave up four runs on a pair of two-run shots, the first by Ichiro and then one by Raul Ibanez.

In the top of the 12th a Jhonny Peralta ground ball to Derek Jeter changed the series dramatically and for good. Jeter landed awkwardly and saw his season end with a broken ankle. The Tigers scored two in the inning and Drew Smyly shut down New York in the bottom half to earn Detroit an exhausting 1-0 series lead.

The rest of the series was filled with intriguing story lines: Phil Coke‘s emergence as closer, Anibal Sanchez‘s brilliant Game 2 shutout, the Yankees’ offensive drought.

Even though the series ended in a sweep,  it wasn’t completely dominant. Other than in the 8-1 Game 4 win, the Tigers didn’t pile on the runs. Sure, they scored six in Game 1 but only because Valverde didn’t allow the first four runs to stand up. In Games 2 and 3 they scored a combined five runs. But the Yankees scored six in the entire series – and who saw that coming?

The same people who predicted a Tigers sweep of the Yankees to with the American League pennant.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

It’s Not Just You: The Tigers Don’t Deliver with Bases Loaded

In the first inning of Tuesday night’s ALDS Game 4, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was on the ropes. He’d walked the bases loaded and with two out Don Kelly ripped what appeared to be a liner over Curtis Granderson’s head in centerfield. (Lord knows we still love Grandy in Detroit, but his reaction to that ball might’ve been one of the reasons the Tigers were willing to deal him in 2009.)

Unfortunately for Kelly and the Tigers, Granderson recovered and made a leaping grab that definitely saved the game for the Yankees and perhaps the series.

It was the second game in a row the Tigers had loaded the bases in the early innings with a chance to blow the game wide open. At least in Game 3 Miguel Cabrera plated a run when he grounded into a double play.

How many times this season have we seen the Tigers load the bases only to come away empty handed?

For the past six months I asked that question only rhetorically. Thanks to some horrific relief work in the eighth, I had time (and good reason to) visit Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index to get the definitive answer.

Continue reading “It’s Not Just You: The Tigers Don’t Deliver with Bases Loaded”

Game 2 Recap: Tigers 5 – Yankees 3

ESPN highlights available here.
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The Score: Tigers 5 – Yankees 3

The Gist: Miguel Cabrera got to Freddy Garcia early, crushing any potential mind games the Yankees’ starter could potentially play on the Tigers, lining a two-run homer down the rightfield corner. Cabrera finished with three hits and RBI. Victor Martinez and Don Kelly drove in the other two runs to give a cushion that wasn’t needed until the bottom of the ninth. The bulk of the day belonged to Max Scherzer who was brilliant, no-hitting the Yankees for six innings. I won’t go into Jose Valverde‘s appearance. If you were lucky enough to miss it, just know it was an inning fraught with panic and despair.

The Quote: “It’s going to be electric.” – Justin Verlander on the environment Monday night at Comerica Park for Game 3.

The Stat: 1 – The number of stolen bases by Cabrera, the only one in the game by either team.

Up Next:

Monday: Tigers vs. Yankees @ Comerica Park | 8:37 p.m. ET | On the air: TBS/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (19-8 3.00 ERA)

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Tigers Roster Set … and a Tad Upsetting

In 1984, the Tigers made the no-brainer decision to leave southpaw reliever Sid Monge off the playoff roster. Monge had an undistinguished half seaon with the Tigers after being picked up off waivers from the Padres — 1-0, 4.25 ERA in 19 games.

He didn’t pitch enough in the regular season and, left hander or no, he wasn’t going to appear in the ALCS or World Series. And God knows we didn’t want him to.

This morning we learned that another seemingly no-brainerish decision — to leave Brad Penny off the ALDS roster — was, in fact, not made. What the …? Jim Leyland hasn’t, and likely won’t, offer much to the media to chew on in the way of rationale for this decision.

Here’s the most obvious question: In what scenario, a Game 4 start, long relief, middle relief, would any Tigers fan feel comfortable seeing Penny on the mound? Speaking for myself: None.

Jason Beck reports on his blog:

Both Rick Porcello and Brad Penny are on the roster. One of them is expected to start Game 4 is necessary (sic). The other will work out of the bullpen.

Would I feel better seeing David Pauley? It depends. If it’s relief, absolutely. And would I feel more confident in Porcello starting Game 4? Ditto. (But if there’s a rainout between tonight and Game 4, are we still to believe that Justin Verlander won’t make that start?)

And what about Ryan Perry? Can the Tigers afford his baffling inconsistency in the postseason?

So what we’ve got are four pitchers — the three P’s: Penny, Porcello, Perry, and Max Scherzer — on the ALDS roster that make us wonder if the good version or bad version will show up.

I have no problem with the position-player decisions, even backup catcher Omir Santos. There’s no way Leyland is going to lose a playoff game — or series — by having to put Brandon Inge or Don Kelly behind the plate. No chance. I think Santos makes sense.

But the real news here is Penny. I’m afraid that if we see him in this series we’re going to long for Sid Monge.

Dave Schoenfield weighs in on both A.L. Division Series rosters on the SweetSpot blog.

The Monday Report

Welcome to the final week-like segment of the 2011 regular season. Remember, oh, four weeks ago when the final three games of the year against Indians looked meaningful?

Leading Off: The Tigers earned a split against the mosquito-ish Orioles by brute force: homers by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Don Kelly and Jhonny Peralta. Brad Penny was just … decent enough to earn the win and even his season record at 11-11.

ALDS Maneuverings: The Rangers swept the feedble Mariners and have a one-game lead over the Tigers in the race for the second-best record in the American League. Texas heads to Anaheim to face Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Perhaps it’s time to bury the hatchet with Weaver, however temporarily.

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The Tigers are in first place, 12 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s game: Tigers vs. Indians – Doug Fister (10-13) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (10-12) | 7:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

Fister’s 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA since coming over from Seattle on July 30, and 5-0 with a 0.81 mark in his last six starts.

Jimenez is 4-3 with a 4.62 ERA since his trade to the Indians. He’s 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Tigers with Cleveland.

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On this date in 1926, in his final day in a Tigers uniform, Ty Cobb watched his replacement in centerfield get six hits in a doubleheader against the Red Sox to become the new batting champion as Heinie Manush edging Babe Ruth .378 to .372.

The Diamondbacks Friday-night clincher came before a less-than-capacity crowd at Chase Field, so it will be interesting to see how the club draws in the NLDS. I’m liking my chances to secure a walk-up ticket whenever the D-backs’ series opens. There’s a nice piece on Kirk Gibson in Sunday’s Arizona Republic – but the really interesting story is this one. When he retired, Gibby coached a youth hockey team in Grosse Pointe and got advice from Steve Yzerman.

“My philosophy on it was you want the puck, but I’d always watch them fight for it, get it and then dump it into the zone and fight for it again,” Gibson said. “It didn’t make much sense to me. I’d like to keep the puck.”

With the season ending on Wednesday, the Tigers won’t have an opportunity to even their record on Thursdays and Saturdays. These will end up being the only two days of the week they didn’t at least finish .500 (Thursdays, 9-10; Saturdays. 12-13).

Finally, on this date in 1969 the album “Abbey Road” by the Beatles was released. Have a great week.

The Tigers Baby Brigade

Things you don’t often see in the Tigers game notes:

KELLY PLACED ON PATERNITY LIST, WORTH RECALLED FROM TOLEDO: The Tigerstoday placed infielder/outfielder Don Kelly on the paternity list and the club has recalled the contract of infielder Danny Worth from Triple A Toledo. Worth hit .247 (69×279) with 17 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and 32 RBI in 79 games with Toledo.

CABRERA REINSTATED FROM PATERNITY LIST: The Tigers today reinstated first baseman Miguel Cabrera from the paternity list. Cabrera missed yesterday’s game at Tampa Bay for the birth of his son Christopher Alexander. Following yesterday’s game, the Tigers optioned the contract of catcher Omir Santos to Triple A Toledo.

Who’s next, Gene Lamont?

The Daily Breakfast: July 24, 2011

Good Sunday Morning. Eleven-game winning streak or no, losing to the Twins stinks.

Leading Off: Brad Penny struggled with his command and the Tigers couldn’t figure out Scott Baker, who made his first start since July 5, and the Tigers lost 4-1, ending their 11-game winning streak against the Twins.

Around the Central: The Indians and White Sox were rained out in Cleveland, and the Royals beat the Rays again, this time 5-4 in Kansas City.

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The Tigers are in first place, 53-47, one game ahead of the Indians.

There are seven days left until the trade deadline.

Today’s Game: Rick Porcello (9-6, 4.76 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (6-7, 4.56 ERA) | 4:10 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

Happy 46th Birthday, Joe Oliver.

Ten years ago today The Yankees edged the Tigers, 6-5, despite an eighth inning blast by Juan Encarnacion, off Ramiro Mendoza, that landed in the second row of the empty blue bleacher seats in left-center. It was believed to be the first ball hit into that area since Yankee Stadium was remodeled in 1976.

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Don Kelly, Jack-of-All-Trades: The Tigers’ utilityman gets major play in today’s New York Times:

Kelly, the do-everything Detroit Tiger, is the only active major leaguer who has played everywhere. A few weeks ago, over three games, he added pitcher and catcher to complete his tour of the nine defensive spots.

Kelly, 31, was drafted by Detroit as a shortstop in 2001. Two years later, with Class A Lakeland, he shifted to third for Anderson Hernandez. When Ryan Raburn took his job at third base, Kelly spent time at second and first.

A great quote from Kelly on his experience behind the plate:

“The strangest thing is when you go to catch the ball and they hit it, and there’s nothing there,” Kelly said. “You’re expecting a 95 fastball and squeezing air. It was pretty crazy.”

FYI: Here’s how the Tigers fare when these starting pitchers take the hill:

Finally, Happy 62nd Birthday to actor Michael Richards.