Tigers postseason formula: Just win, baby

A three-run first inning helped take the crowd out of the mix in Game One.

A three-run first inning helped take the crowd out of the mix in Game One.

There are no style points in baseball. (There’s no crying either, but the Oakland A’s looked like they were about to shed a few tears after many of their 16 strikeouts in Game One).

As Oakland icon Al Davis used to say, “Just win, baby.” The Detroit Tigers won the first game of this division series 3-2, which still doesn’t seem to be enough for some of their fans, who prefer to win 6-2 or 9-3. But a win is a win is a win, and Detroit has snatched the home field advantage from Oakland in this tiny little five-game series, where one game can swing the balance either way.

Listen Tiger fans: with Miguel Cabrera exhibiting the mobility of Raymond Burr’s Ironside, this is not your father’s or your grandfather’s team. Hell, it’s not your team from seven weeks ago. The Tigers biggest strength is their shutdown starting pitcher corps, and 3-2, 2-0, and 1-0 victories might be the norm going forward. Deal with it. Just win, baby.

Sure, we’d love to see Miggy, Prince, VMart and boys explode for a 7-spot, but this is postseason baseball, where most games are nail-biting, nerve-wracking, pee-your-pants contests of tense batter/pitcher matchups. These are not the Cecil Fielder/Rob Deer/Pete Incavaglia Tigers, these are the Max Scherzer/Justin Verlander/Anibal Sanchez Tigers. If you don’t like pitching, if close games are not your thing, you might want to look the other way. That’s is the reality of it, let’s just be thankful that Dave Dombrowski has assembled a shut down group of pitchers to go along with an offense that (when healthy and firing on all cylinders) is one of the best. The Tigers will go as far as their pitching takes them, and they’re as talented in that area as any team in the postseason tournament.

Game One Notes

– Both Austin Jackson and Victor Martinez had some very good swings in Game One, which bodes well, since they are the bookends of Detroit’s Top Five in the lineup.

– Jose Iglesias wowed many observers when he nearly made an amazing play on a slow roller late in Game One. It was almost a carbon copy of his eye-popping play against the White Sox in August. Iglesias will get a lot of attention in the postseason, where national eyes will see how great a defender he is.
– Alex Avila’s two hits were a good sign, but once again he took a few shots to the head.

– There were many who were nervous when Leyland removed Cabrera from the game and replaced him with Ramon Santiago in the 8th inning at third base. But Smoky deserves credit – it removed any temptation the A’s might have had to drop bunts down the line.

– Kudos to the Tigers for carrying 14 position players in this series. Most teams now carry 12 pitchers, but by adding one more option (Hernan Perez), Detroit can go to their bench more freely.

– Peralta looked a little pensive in his pinch-hit appearance but that’s not his thing. Give him starts and Jhonny will drive the ball.

– Torii Hunter seems to do little things that help his team in big games. Last night he dropped down a bunt, he got hit by a pitch, and scored a run.

– Before you scream bloody murder at third base coach Tom Brookens for another runner thrown out at home, think about the situation. The Tigers were trying to tack on an insurance run, and though Josh Reddick has a good arm, he had to put it right on the button to get VMart. It was closer than it appeared. I don’t have a problem with that play, I think Brookens needs to be aggressive. And before you say it, the Tigs do not get more baserunners thrown out in plays like that than other teams. They rank right about in the middle for baserunners thrown out at third and home.

– One thing I’d like to see the Tigers do more often is run over catchers. With his prior knee problems, maybe Martinez isn’t the one to do it, but a little Kirk Gibson-style contact wouldn’t hurt sometimes.

Looking forward to Game Two

– In the Leyland Era, the Tigers have won every playoff series in which they have won the first game.

– Verlander is 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA against the A’s over the last two seasons, including his two postseason starts against them last October. Whereas Scherzer keeps his explosive fastball low and dips his changeup out of the strike zone while A’s batters flail away, JV typically overpowers Oakland batters with a mid-to-high fastball. He also utilizes his curveball. Pay attention to how effective his curve is on Saturday evening, that might be the key to his success. He will probably try to find the handle on “Uncle Charlie” early in the game, preferring to save some gas for later innings.

– Don’t discount the level of competition between members of the Tigers starting staff. You don’t think Verlander is aware that people all over baseball have scratched their heads at his “off year?” He’s aware, and though he’s thrilled that Mad Max had a great season and was handed the ball for Game One, Verlander is an intense competitor and he wants to exert his status as ace of this staff. Pride is a wonderful motivator.

– Jhonny Peralta will probably start in left field. As Andy Dirks showed when he chased a fly in Friday’s game, there’s a wide expanse of foul territory in Oakland’s ballpark. Keep an eye on Jhonny’s play out there.
With a day off on Sunday, Joaquin Benoit can pitch an inning or even a fraction more than an inning on Saturday. Everyone else will be available too.

– Given how different he is in style from JV, Rick Porcello would be a natural choice to follow on the mound in Game Two. After 7 innings of dealing with Verlander’s heat and bender, Porcello’s frustratingly slow but tantalizing pitches would be a great contrast. I am one of those people who think Porcello could be excellent out of the pen. He doesn’t walk a lot of batters, he looks like he should be easy to hit, and he keeps the ball low. Also, if he knows he’s only going to throw 15-20 pitches, Porcello can let it all hang out, and he can fan batters if needed.

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