Tigers using same formula as ’68 team to win in the postseason

Justin Verlander hugs Torii Hunter after leading the Detroit Tigers to victory in Game Five of the ALDS.

Justin Verlander hugs Torii Hunter after leading the Detroit Tigers to victory in Game Five of the ALDS.

For nearly 30 years the fans of the Detroit Tigers have been looking for a team to remind them of the 1984 team. But maybe it’s 1968 they should be looking back to. The ’68 team was known for their comebacks, and this current gang knows something about getting up off the mat.

On Thursday night in Oakland, led by Justin “The Oakland Killer” Verlander,  the Tigers completed an improbable comeback to defeat the A’s in five hard-fought games in the American League Division Series. After a puzzling disappearance of their booming bats in September and through the first three games of the ALDS, Detroit roared back to life like a Tiger coming out of hibernation.

Ok, I know Tigers don’t hibernate, but tell that to fans who watched their once feared Detroit offense purr more like a kitten than a beast for five weeks.

In 1968, the Tigers came from behind 40 times after the 7th inning, and they won an amazing 30 times in their final at-bat. Fans at Tiger Stadium learned to never leave the park early that year. The ’13 team has channeled that energy, winning several games in walk-off fashion this year. But, down 2 games to 1 to Oakland and staring a 3-0 deficit in the chops in Game Four, it seemed like their magic would run out.

Enter Jhonny Peralta, who was banished for 50 games after being linked to banned substances. But Peralta mended fences with his teammates and the Tiger organization in classy fashion, earning a place on the postseason roster. He even offered to play the outfield, a position he hadn’t played since Mama Peralta used to cart him off to Little League. Peralta hit a home run that tied Game Four, earning back many of the fans who had abandoned him for his transgression. That’s good, Detroit. It’s called forgiveness. (Don’t use it on Kwame, save it for your favorite ballplayers).

Later when the A’s inched ahead again, Detroit had an answer, putting up four runs, which must have confused the Comerica Park scoreboard operator, who had grown accustomed to hitting the “0” button for the home nine.

The ’68 team had superstars – Al Kaline, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton – and it was those marquee players who drove that club to the top. No star has shined brighter all year than Max Scherzer. On Tuesday, Max entered the game as a reliever to stave off the long-bearded A’s. In his second inning of work he dug a hole for himself – loading the bases with nobody out. Harnessing his fastball and slider, Max did what superstars do – step up in big moments. Two fist-pumping strikeouts and a flyout followed and Oakland was stiff-armed. In the dugout, Scherzer did his best Kirk Gibson impression, nearly breaking his teammates hands with high-fives of hand-stinging intensity. But his performance hurt the A’s, not the Bengals.

From that point on, it seemed that Detroit would find a way, led by their star players. Sure enough, Verlander, who owns the A’s (even Wikipedia seems to say so), pitched like the JV of 2011, taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning, and never once seeming to break a sweat. Miguel Cabrera, the biggest batting star to wear the Old English D since Kaline, drilled a two-run homer to give the Tigers all the offense they needed. When Joaquin Benoit recorded the final out in the 9th, it completed Detroit’s comeback from the brink. The stars had led the way in dramatic fashion. Just like in ’68.

The city of Detroit hopes the similarities don’t end there.

2 replies on “Tigers using same formula as ’68 team to win in the postseason

  • Derry Loucks

    In 67 as a high school senior I had the opportunity to intern for a few weeks over the summer for Triple AAA Tigers farm team..The Syracuse Chiefs..met a lot of the guys who went up to the big club in 68..been a fan ever since…Recently while visiting my daughter in Michigan and leaving the town I was pulled over with my NY plates and wearing the Olde English D cap. The officer decided to give me a pass on speeding in a school zone. In his words..”Any body from NY who is a Tigers fan deserves a break. Go Tigers!!

  • Rick

    Hey Dan, how about J.V.? Remember during the summer how many people were crucifying him? I kept telling people if he was our problem we didn’t have a problem. But people were saying he was over paid, lazy, had lost it and didn’t care. Boy were they WRONG! I personally dogged two friends who had dogged him all year. I believe I even wrote to you that if the Tiger’s offered him in trade 31 teams would leap at the chance to have him and you agreed. I guess we were right huh? He showed everyone who didn’t know who the REAL ace was! No offense to Max as he’s great too but I think he would even agree THE man is J.V.!

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