October Surprise Part 7: Doyle Foils Jays to Knot Division Lead

The final weekend of the 2009 season is here and the Tigers are in position for the American League Central title. Twenty-two years ago tonight the Tigers started the final season with the A.L. East in their sights. Here’s part seven of our series.


American League East Standings: October 2, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Toronto 96-63 .604 –
Detroit 95-64 .597 1

Doyle.jpgOf all the scenarios facing the Tigers for the final weekend, one was the most cut and dried: sweep the Blue Jays, win the division.

Game one of the decisive series took place on a cold Friday night. A crowd of 45,167 witnessed a rematch of the previous Sunday, Doyle Alexander and Jim Clancy.

The Jays scored first in the top of the second on Manny Lee’s three-run homer to right-center. In the bottom of that same inning the Tigers scored two runs of their own on a Chet Lemon single and a home run by rookie outfielder Scott Lusader.

Continue reading “October Surprise Part 7: Doyle Foils Jays to Knot Division Lead”

October Surprise Part 5: Setting the Bear Trap

As the Tigers and Twins wrap up the biggest series of the year with the division title hanging in the balance, we continue our look back on the last great race in Tigers history: 1987 and the seven games against the Toronto Blue Jays in the season’s final 10 days. Today: Game 4, the final game in Toronto.


American League East Standings: September 27, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Toronto 96-59 .619 –
Detroit 92-62 .597 3.5

As the Tigers arrived at Exhibition Stadium for the series finale, they knew what was at stake. The chances of coming back from four-and-a-half game deficit in less than a week bordered on the absurd. If ever there were a must-win game, this was it.

GoodMorning.jpgThe Tigers turned to Doyle Alexander to stop the bleeding. Toronto looked to right-hander Jim Clancy to bury the Tigers’ fading division title hopes.

Nelson Liriano led off the home half of the first with a single to right and promptly stole second. Eventual league MVP George Bell drove in Liriano for Toronto’s first run. Though he baffled the Jays for the next eight innings, Alexander and the Tigers trailed 1-0 heading into the top of the ninth.

Continue reading “October Surprise Part 5: Setting the Bear Trap”

October Surprise: Tigers and Jays Battle for ’87 Division Title

ViewFromOutfieldXSmall.jpgOver the next week, we’ll watch the Tigers and Twins play head-to-head to decide the American League Central.

While this plays out, let’s look back at the final two weekends of the 1987 season when the Tigers and Blue Jays squared off for seven heart-pounding, one-run games that would ultimately decide the American League East title.

Today, Part 1.


“I’m telling you, everything is going to come down to our seven games with Toronto.” — Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson, Sept. 21, 1987

Entering the 1987 season, little was expected of the Detroit Tigers. Just three seasons removed from a wire-to-wire championship season, the Tigers were considered mere also-rans in a division filled with potent lineups, solid pitching and the defending League Champions, the Red Sox.

Adding to an already challenging divisional landscape, the Tigers faced life without their All Star catcher and cleanup hitter, Lance Parrish. The Big Wheel rejected the Tigers’ two-year, $2.4 million contract offer and instead signed a one-year $800,000 deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

That’s why in the first weeks of the 1987 season the story in baseball was not the Detroit Tigers. Hardly. The Milwaukee Brewers’ 13-0 start captivated the baseball world. After 13 games the Tigers had a less-imposing 6-7 record. Twenty games into the season Milwaukee had stormed to 18-2, four games ahead of New York, followed by Toronto (12-8), Baltimore (9-11), Detroit (8-12) and Cleveland (6-14).

Continue reading “October Surprise: Tigers and Jays Battle for ’87 Division Title”

Looking Back on Doyle Alexander’s 1987 Shutout at Fenway Park

Doyle.jpgDan Dickerson was quick to point out that Justin Verlander’s shutout on Thursday was the first by a Tigers pitcher at Fenway Park since Doyle Alexander blanked the Red Sox in 1987. (Thanks to a tip from Fungo contributor Doug Hill, we went scrambling for the details.)

The Tigers were a half-game out of first place on Sept. 23, 1987, for the finale of a three-game series against Boston. Alexander, who blanked the Red Sox a week earlier, 3-0 at Tiger Stadium, faced off with lefty Bruce Hurst and was untouchable. He allowed singles to the first two batters he faced – Ellis Burks and Marty Barrett – and a two-out walk to Spike Owen in the second and that was it.

Alexander got two runs in the second and one each in the fifth and sixth. Tom Brookens drove in a pair and Alan Trammell knocked home one in the win. (The fourth run was scored on an error.) The Tigers moved on to Toronto for a grueling four-game series for ages against the Blue Jays.

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