Nine reasons the Tigers will beat the Red Sox

Don't be surprised if Jhonny Peralta has a good series in the ALCS.

Don’t be surprised if Jhonny Peralta has a good series in the ALCS.

Boston and Detroit have been in the American League together for 113 seasons, since before the Red Sox wore red socks, and before the Tigers wore the Old English D. They both moved into new ballparks on the same day in 1912, so long ago that it was just days after the H.M.S. Titanic had sunk. Yet, over all that time, the two franchises have never met in the postseason or any other game that had such an impact on the pennant race. Until now.

The Red Sox and Tigers are the two best teams in the American League, and they’ll meet tonight at Fenway Park (it’s still there) in Game One of the ALCS. The winner of this series will advance to the World Series. Considering the firepower on both sides, it should be an exciting series. The Red Sox had the league’s best record, the Tigers won their third consecutive Central division title. Detroit was pushed to the limit once again in the first round, but even so, there’s every reason to believe they can defeat Boston and win their second straight pennant. Here’s how it might happen.

Top of the order firepower

Austin Jackson swung the bat like a mojo-less Austin Powers in the ALDS against the A’s. That’s the bad news. The good news? It’s a new series, with the chance for a fresh start. Jackson has a history of hitting well against the Red Sox and at Fenway. He batted .478 with 3 doubles and 7 runs scored in 6 games against Boston this year. Miguel Cabrera also loves the tiny confines of Fenway and Boston pitching (.421 with a .684 SLG and .522 OBP in ’13). Add in the 7 RBI that prince Fielder had against Boston hurlers this year, and you have the recipe for a confident top of the order for Detroit. You get the feeling that the Tigers are ready to emerge from their 5-week run-scoring slump, and Fenway Park is a great place to get over the “can’t get no hits blues.”

A rising tide lifts all pitchers

Quite obviously Justin Verlander is in the zone at the right time (#TellUsSomethingWeDontKnow) … But Max Scherzer is dealing too, and Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez are very good pitchers as well. The Tiger Four feed off each other, striving to outdo one another with brilliant performances. Pride plays a factor too. You can bet Anibal will be looking to atone for a rusty outing in the ALDS. As Verlander and Scherzer set the bar high, the other two are sure to reach for it. Last year in the ALCS, the quartet combined for a miniscule 0.66 ERA in their four-game sweep of the Yankees.

Torii’s hunt for a ring

In his 17th big league season, Torii Hunter is as close to the World Series as he’s ever been – one rung away for the third time. The veteran is energized and he knows this may be the last and best chance he has to reach the Fall Classic. Not only is he motivated, but his leadership inspires the rest of the team. After his dominant performance in Game Five of the ALDS, Verlander made a point to mention Hunter as a reason he focused so hard – the Tigers want to help their grizzled teammate get to the promised land.

The Miggy threat

Injury schminjury – Miguel Cabrera is still a huge obstacle in the middle of the lineup for Boston hurlers. As mention ed above, Miggy has pummelled BoSox pitching in ’13, but he’s also getting his swagger back after tomahawking a baseball out for a home run in Game Five in Oakland. Even if he can’t drive the ball quite as far, he won’t need to in the bandbox that Boston calls their home park. He also will get his share of free passes, which gives Fielder and Victor Martinez RBI opportunities.

Rested bullpen

After Scherzer rescued the Tigers in Game Four of the ALDS with his heart-stopping relief appearance, and JV went 8 innings in Game Five, the Tigers bullpen is well-rested. Joaquin Benoit has been a little off the mark, but he’s making good pitches and avoiding walks for the most part. Drew Smyly (unscored upon in two relief appearances against the Sox this year), Rick Porcello, Al Alburquerque, and Jose Veras will be relied upon if the Big Four need help from the pen. The “love him or loathe him” Phil Coke returns too, after elbow soreness. Look for Coke to be a factor, the Red Sox have several good hitters from the left side (Big Papi vs. Coke matchups are likely and Ortiz is just 1-for-18 against the lefty). Often, when a reliever returns from a rehab, he’s strong and refreshed, and Coke has his experience from the 2012 postseason to give him confidence in tight spots.

Great pitching tames great hitting

If the old baseball axiom is true: “Good pitching beats good hitting,” then it only seems prudent that GREAT pitching can halt great hitting. The Red Sox led the majors in runs scored, they are a disciplined team that grinds out at-bats, draws walks, and most importantly hits the ball hard and far. But the Tigers have the best starting pitching going right now in the playoffs. Verlander has tossed 27 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to his last two starts of the regular season; Scherzer has a 1.65 ERA with 23 K’s in his last 16 innings on the mound; Sanchez struck out more than 200 batters, giving Detroit three starters above the 200-mark; Fister has been great in his previous LCS outings, allowing only two runs in two starts. It’s been a long, long time since a team had four very good starters like this in the postseason. Probably not since the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s has a manager had the luxury of running out four big game pitchers in October. Verlander and Scherzer are studs, and if they are on their game (like they are now), it won’t matter how potent the Red Sox batters are, you can’t score if you can’t get on base.

Leyland is hitting his stride

Few have been as critical of Jim Leyland than I have. Lord knows his loyalty to marginal talents like Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago are head-scratching. However (I never thought I’d write THAT however), Leyland proved in the ALDS that he knows his team’s strengths and weaknesses as well as any skipper in the majors. When he had to, he put everything on his superstars shoulders – JV, Scherzer, Miggy. But he also negotiated the late innings of games well by shifting in Santiago, Kelly, and Iglesias for defense. Two moves that he didn’t make in the ALDS proved beneficial – not starting VMart behind the plate despite cries to spare Cabrera from playing the field, and not replacing Scherzer when he was faced with abases loaded, nobody out quandary in Game Four. Most of all, Smoky has the love and loyalty of his players. Though he’s crotchety and stubborn (quit bunting and calling the hit-and-run to jump start your offense, your team doesn’t do that well), Smoky’s allegiance to his guys brings unyielding devotion. Jhonny Peralta’s return, acceptance, and pivotal contribution wouldn’t have happened without Leyland’s fatherly guidance of this club. By the way – look for Jhonny to have a good series – he has a swing that is made for the Green Monster in Fenway, I expect him to smacking balls off (or over) that wall.

The Fielder factor

The hulking Detroit first baseman has had a challenging year. He’s went through a divorce, he’s struggled at the plate, and even when he does something good on the diamond, it’s greeted with “He’s getting paid millions to do that.” His power numbers have regressed the last two years, and it’s not just that he moved from a small ballpark in Milwaukee to a cavernous one in Detroit. Fielder, at 29, is not as strong as he once was. With his body type, he may need to shed some pounds and increase his muscle to forge a respectable career in his 30s. But, back to the here and now. Fielder has been a disappointment in October as a Tiger. In 18 postseason games for Detroit, Prince has 14 hits – all but one of them singles. That lone extra-base hit was a home run against the A’s in the 2012 ALDS. Fielder needs to reach the seats in this series to help the Tigers outscore the prolific Boston run machine. I think he will, and he’s in the perfect ballpark for Games One and Two – Fenway’s Pesky Pole in right field is just a stone’s throw away from the plate.

Defending champions

The Tigers have reached baseball’s “Final Four” for the third straight season. For the first time though, they are the defending league champs. The experience of having played 29 postseason games in the last 24 months will help Detroit weather the ups and downs of a 7-game series. Boston is good, at some point in this series they will get theirs (in August they pounded the Tigs 20-4 in one game), but the key is how the players react to it. Detroit has been there before, and as they showed by bouncing back to win the final two games of the ALDS, they have the moxy to survive a grueling series.

19 replies on “Nine reasons the Tigers will beat the Red Sox

  • Great Lakes

    I am old enough to remember the AL pennant race in 1967 that came down to the last day of the season. Might be the reason the Boston rivalry still lives in the hearts of many Tiger fans. They couldn’t get the job done against the Cardinals in the Series, and we did it all the next year.

  • Rick

    Hey Dan, lots of great insight. The sad thing for me is, now if the Tiger’s win they will do it with a CHEATER! I for one (and I’m sure I’m a minority)can never enjoy any championship won with the help of a cheater. The S.F. Giants showed all of sports last year how to deal with a cheater by cutting Melky Cabrera loose. I believe win or lose the Tiger’s should have done the same thing with Johnny Cheater. I don’t believe it has anything to do with Leyland’s loyalty. I believe it has to do with his and Dumbrowski’s fear of losing. I also took offense to Leyland’s comment after clinching that they were set up to fail. This team was set up to win it all and because of his poor managing they had to allow a cheater on the team. For me the only good thing about winning it all is hopefully Leyland will go away for good. As a Tiger fan for over 50 years I have to say I’m more disappointed with this team then even the team that lost 108 games or whatever it was. At least they didn’t cheat. A note to Leyland and Dumbrowski. You have disgraced your team, city and state. I guess you would rather win cheating then lose with honor. Truly sad. I hope your both proud! One last thing. I notice a young kid sitting next to Dumbrowski and figure it’s his son. I wonder how he validates cheating to him? And I wonder if his kid ever cheats on a high school test what he would say when his kid says “well dad you cheated to win isn’t it ok? Because that’s what I took from it”. NICE! Well Dan, I guess you see how I feel about cheating. As always keep up the great work

  • Joseph Sennish

    IMHO, the Tiger’s phenomenal pitching has picked up this team and carried the slumping lineup on it’s back. If the offense is going to continue to be a non-factor, as they were through the end of September, those arms will be the nine reasons the Tigers win.

    P.S – Correction to your statement “the two franchises have never met in … any other game that had such an impact on the pennant race. Until now.” Check out Tigers vs. Red Sox, final series of the 1972 season. Tigers won the division on the final day of the season after a great outing by Mickey Lolich the day before.

  • Dan Holmes


    Thanks for your input. I respect your stance on Jhonny Peralta, though I don’t agree. I am disappointed that he besmirched the franchise by using PEDs, but he did serve his time and he has, by all accounts, made amends with his teammates. I can’t turn my back on the entire team because of it.

    I wish you would reconsider, you may enjoy watching and rooting for this team. They have, in my opinion, the best pitching the Tigers have had in more than 60 years. They have superstar players and are dramatic, to say the least. Maybe you can come back to the team in the future.

    Thanks for reading!


  • LampyB

    Sorry Rick, but baseball’s a business and after investing so many millions into this team Dombrowksi and Leyland need a world series title. Peralta’s made a mistake and had to pay the price. He’s back and ready to help the Tigs win a title. I’m a firm believer in giving someone a second chance. Doesn’t mean we’ll keep Peralta next season, but he’s an asset on this team and they’re paying him money to be there. So he’s going to play and earn his paycheck.

    We’re all in agreement that the cheating must be stopped, and harsher penalties given. However, Dombrowski and Leyland are going to do whatever they can to leverage the team’s assets to bring a world series to the city of Detroit. After everything the city and state has been through, I can’t think of another city that deserves a ring more than Detroit and its fans. So no, Dombrowski isn’t going to simply bench Peralta because you dislike cheaters so passionately. I’m sure you’ve never made a mistake of your own that deserved a second chance, right?

  • Sandra

    Regarding Jhonny Peralta, he paid the penalty without being the cry baby AR was, worked hard in his off time and has come back “unjuiced” and is proving he has what it takes without the aid of performance enhancing drugs. I’m hoping they go all the way. By the way, good article, good insight. Love those Tigers. Heading down to the Big D on Wednesday for game 4.

  • mark b

    Obviously Peralta did his time and made ammends with his team mates.The Tigers won without Peralta and they will win the world series with him.Also if you are going to knock the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan you obviously live in a city that has never won anything and your just jealous.11 Stanley cup titles,4 world series championships and a fan base that is 2nd to no one.We are proud of our TIGERS and the city of Detroit so if you knock them you better be able to back it up or shut up

  • Scott Yardley

    This comment is for Rick. How many steroid users have played on championship teams in the past and were not caught. What if the Tigers had won in 2006 and it was proven that Pudge had indeed used steroids would you have wanted them to give the championship trophy back? I doubt it. Great article! It is not about Paralta it is about a great team that we are getting to witness!

  • Jacob

    How about wow. Born in Michigan grew up in Las Vegas, nv and just wow game 2 Alcs can’t even hold on if we lose this series I hope the whole bullpen gets traded including porecello this is becoming embarrassing.

  • Tigerfan4Life

    The Tigers dropped game 2 at Fenway. I guess game 2’s will become an omen for the Tigers. Nobody said it would be easy, I expect this series to go the full 7 exciting, dramatic games. GO TIGERS!

  • Rick

    Hey Dan, while I agree that I’m the one who suffers I fell had baseball taken a stronger stand and I know they are all to blame. Player’s, owner’s, the union and to some degree the media for I guess doing their job. But it is not just Peralta it is ANY and ALL cheater’s. To me the punishment for any peds should be the same as gambling. A lifetime banishment. That is the only real way to clean the game. As a kid growing up in the Kaline, Mays, Mantle, Aaron, Clemente and so many other hof’ers it just sickens me to see what has happened to the game I love. I’ll be happy for Tiger fans but I wll do no celebrating. I really enjoy your articles. Keep up the great work and I also agree best staff ever in Detroit

  • J.D.

    To Dan: One reason why we might not beat Boston: An INCONSISTENT and UNRELIABLE bullpen and Leyland’s lack of ability to manage it. Last night was tragic. You can’t use up four pitchers on 6 batters and leave yourself backed into a corner with no viable options. Jimbo does this a LOT. In fact he did almost the same thing in game one, but got away with it. To Rick: Haven’t you ever heard of “Better living through Chemistry, Science and Progress”?

  • Russ Tillman

    Good discussion….All thru this season we heard and saw managers pitching to Cabrera in a way (outside) so “he couldn’t beat them.” (Even though Cabrera blasted a few of those outside pitches.) While hindsight is certainly 20/20, it appears we didn’t pitch to Ortiz in a way that he couldn’t beat us. Earlier that night Ortiz was swinging at low and away sliders. I would have started off on a dose of those even if we walked him…Again, hindsite is 20/20. Meanwhile God Bless Torii Hunter on such a noble try! Go Tigers!

  • Rick

    To all the people who support cheating. I’m so sorry your so desperate for a win. As for the fan who mentioned 11 Stanley cups and 4 W.S. title’s. I hardly call 22 championships in over 250 years of seasons any kind of legacy or tradition. Until Mr. Illitch came along all we have had is suffering with our sports while the owner’s got rich. As for the fan mentioning Pudge and other roider’s no had we won in 06 with a cheater I would not be proud and yes I mentioned to my friend about HIS cheater. I respect all of your opinions I just don’t agree and never will. Again, I would rather lose with grace and dignity then win with cheater’s. Perhaps if more people felt that way we would not have the mess we have and to try and justify it by saying they invested all of this Illitch money is in my thinking a poor excuse to cheat. If the cheater’s win I hope you all have fun and enjoy yourself at the parade as for me I’ll stay home. Remember this fans, when you enable and condone cheating it only creates more of the same.

  • Cliff Parker

    The Detroit Tigers have got to go to Boston and win two straight to get to the 2013 World Series. This has got to be their year to do this, because they have worked so hard for this moment to come into focus. I hope that on both this Saturday and Sunday, both Scherzer and Verlander have got to pitch flawless games to these ugly bearded BoHo Sox batters and strike them out; PERIOD. Most important, the Tigers have got to wake their bats up and get a whole lot of runs in and not leave a whole bunch of runners left on base. The Detroit Tigers do this for Game 6 and Game 7, they can go to the 2013 World Series and win the title just like L. A. did in Game 5 of the 2013 NLCS. Key; they have to stay focused and sock it to these BoHo Sox!!!!!!! Once again, great article Dan; keep up the great work!

  • Cliff Parker

    To Rick; losers never get anywhere, so if you want to be associate with losing, don’t try to damper the spirits of people that want to see a winner. As far as I am concerned, Peralta served his suspension with grace, thus he is in the clear as opposed to A-Rod. Also, the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series Championship for 2013 would be a great event for the fans of Tigers Baseball to celebrate another world championship for Detroit. Bottom line, if you want to try to hang something over somebody after they served their punishment for their violation is completely fascist and ignorant of you. GO TIGERS!!!!! Sock it to the BoHo Sox!!!!!!!

  • Cliff Parker

    Also to Rick, no offense, but I just don’t accept anyone hoping the Detroit Tigers would lose out on getting to the 2013 World Series (unless you want Detroit’s sports teams to be compared to the crap butt sports teams down in Cleveland, Ohio), because Jhonny Peralta had something controversial going on with a banned substance. He accepted that he (Peralta) did wrong and served his suspension so leave him alone, PERIOD. Also, no person that commits any wrong in pro sports, unless it is murder, should be banned from playing in pro sports, because no matter what, individuals have rights to live out their desires to perform in what career he or she chooses to do whether it is in sports, sciences, business, etc. However, if a wrong or tort is committed, then they should be suspended not banned.

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