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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to defend their three straight American League Central titles.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2011 postseason revisited, game-by-game



Like this year, the Tigers went into the 2011 postseason as the lowest-seeded division winner, even though they’d gone into the final week of the season with a (remote) chance to claim the No. 1 seed.
The inability to get home-field advantage didn’t really turn out to be a huge factor early on, as the Tigers won twice at Yankee Stadium to knock the Bronx Bombers out of the postseason for the second time in five years. But it would cost in the long run, as the Tigers would go 3-2 at Comerica Park, and just 2-4 away from it, losing all three games they played at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
Here’s a look back at how the postseason unfolded: (click on the individual game scores for links to that game story or live chat)

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES
Detroit 3, New York 2

GAME 1 (Sept. 30 at NY): Yankees 9, Tigers 3 — If you were paying attention, this is where the theme started. Justin Verlander went to the mound, and it started to rain. The game was stopped after the top of the second inning, forcing the first two games back a day, and costing the Tigers a chance to start Verlander twice in the short series.
“I don’t make a big deal about stuff like that. I think when the manager makes a big deal about things like that, it affects the players. It is what it is,” manager Jim Leyland said at the time.
“Good lord, it rained. So what? It’s all about three. You know? Win three, lose three. That’s what this is about. The magic number is three. For both teams. That’s the way it is. There’s no sense getting excited.”
Doug Fister, who started the resumed game a day later, took the loss in “relief” when a six-run sixth inning — punctuated by a Robinson Cano grand slam off Al Alburquerque — let the game get out of hand.
GAME 2 (Oct. 2 at NY): Tigers 5, Yankees 3 — Max Scherzer carried a no-hitter one out into the fifth inning of the series’ second game, picking up a rotation that had been hit by the weather snafu earlier in the weekend. Miguel Cabrera’s early home run was enough of a lead for the Tigers to withstand a couple of late homers by the Yankees, and steal the one game they needed to in New York.
GAME 3 (Oct. 3 at DET): Tigers 5, Yankees 4 — The two Game 1 starters, Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia went toe-to-toe in a grudge match in the first postseason game at Comerica Park, a contest that was settled by Delmon Young’s go-ahead homer in the seventh. The win put the Tigers on the brink of moving on, something they could accomplish with another home win.
GAME 4 (Oct. 4 at DET): Yankees 10, Tigers 1 — Aided by a couple of spectacular catches in center field by former Tiger Curtis Granderson, the much-maligned A.J. Burnett rescued the Yankees season with a sensational outing. After Rick Porcello kept the game reasonably close, another big inning late against the Tigers’ bullpen — this time a six-run eighth — allowed the Yankees to salt it away, and steal home-field advantage back from the Tigers.
GAME 5 (Oct. 6 at NY): Tigers 3, Yankees 2 — Jose Valverde was perfect in saves in the 2011 season, including saving his own butt by backing up his tongue-in-cheek, joking guarantee that the Tigers wouldn’t go back to New York, closing out the series-clinching win when it did. Don Kelly’s first-inning homer silenced the Yankee Stadium crowd, then Fister and Scherzer combined to silence the Yankee bats until late in the game, until Joaquin Benoit and Valverde could close it out, and send the Tigers on to Texas.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Texas 4, Detroit 2

GAME 1 (Oct. 8 at TEX): Rangers 3, Tigers 2 — The first game of the ALCS provided a continuation of one theme, and the start of two others. It rained during a scheduled Verlander start, then the Tigers’ bullpen had to try to match the Rangers’ stellar relief staff the rest of the way. It did this time, as Nelson Cruz’s fourth-inning homer off Verlander was the difference in the win.
GAME 2 (Oct. 10 at TEX): Rangers 7, Tigers 3, 11 innings — After the Tigers got bad injury news again — this time, with Magglio Ordonez out for what would turn out to be forever, after re-fracturing his ankle — and a game got postponed again — this time by the driest rainout in the history of baseball — the game was settled by a matchup of Cruz and the Tigers’ bullpen. His walk-off grand slam ended the extra-inning game in dramatic fashion, sending the series to Detroit, with the Tigers in an 0-2 hole.
GAME 3 (Oct. 11 at DET): Tigers 5, Rangers 2 — The already-hobbled Victor Martinez tied the game up with a fourth-inning home run, hurting a muscle in his side on the swing. He’d utter his amusing “The only way I don’t play tomorrow is if I wake up and I’m dead” line after the win, which finally got the Tigers on the board in the series. It gave them some hope, but the injuries were starting to catch up to them.
GAME 4 (Oct. 12 at DET): Rangers 7, Tigers 3 — Another extra-inning game, another Cruz missile to win it. Brandon Inge tied the game with a homer in the seventh, but Cabrera was thrown out at the plate in the eighth (by Cruz, of course) trying to score the go-ahead run. Cruz would twist the knife with a three-run homer in the 11th inning to put the Tigers one game from going home.
GAME 5 (Oct. 13 at DET): Tigers 7, Rangers 5 — On the brink of elimination, the Tigers rode Verlander and a club postseason-record four home runs to a win, sending the series back to Texas. Playing in back-to-back games for the first time in the series, the nicked up Delmon Young continued his postseason tear with a couple of home runs, but Cruz matched it with one of his own to end Verlander’s night.
GAME 6 (Oct. 15 at TEX): Rangers 15, Tigers 5 — This was the game where all the accumulated injuries and all the stress on the bullpen caught up with the Tigers. So brilliant in the New York series, Scherzer was part of the unraveling process, as the Rangers batted around twice in the game. At one point in the 14-batter third inning, the Rangers went nine straight at-bats without making an out.
“It’s a tough one to swallow. This is a tough one. This is the one you think about for the whole offseason,” Scherzer said. “Given that it’s an elimination game, it feels pretty bad. You never want to be in the situation where things unravel in this type of situation, you always want to be the guy to step up and help the team to win, and the most frustrating part for me is I didn’t come out with my best stuff today.”

That ended the Tigers’ playoff run. The Rangers would go on to the World Series for the second straight year, and look like they had it closed out, before St. Louis made its improbable comeback to win it in seven games.

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