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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

WS PREVIEW: Tigers draw motivation from how last year's postseason ended

DETROIT — Every team but one finishes the season disappointed.

Not every team finishes with egg on its face.

When the injury-riddled Detroit Tigers finally ran out of gas in the 2011 American League Championship Series, they didn’t just fade away, sputter out.

No, they exploded, falling 15-5 to the Rangers in Game 6 in Texas.

An embarrassing way to end what had been a great season.

“It’s a tough one to swallow. This is a tough one. This is the one you think about for the whole offseason,” said starter Max Scherzer, who was on the hook for six of the nine runs the Rangers scored in the third inning.

“Obviously, disappointment. It had been such a roller-coaster ride, going to New York for Game 5, every game so tightly contested here. And to see it slip away, it’s just a helpless feeling,” Justin Verlander said. “It’s not fun.”

“The only thing that really bothers me a little bit about this game, because you know I’m sure some people are going to make fun of us now because of the way this game ended, so that hurts a little bit,” manager Jim Leyland said.




And ... motivating?

“Are you kidding me?” said Phil Coke, when asked to contrast the feeling from that series-deciding game, and the elation of this year’s Game 4 of the ALCS, when the Tigers finished off a sweep of the New York Yankees.

“That last game in Texas last year, we got shellacked. And that sucked. But at the same time, I was proud of our team. We had an incredible run to get there. We showed guts when we had a lot of injuries we were dealing with, and people were trying to get through stuff. And we still got to that point, even though we were in shambles, as far as our on-the-field team. But our spirits weren’t. Our drive wasn’t. We were out to prove something, and we just came up short last year.

“We didn’t this time.”

The Tigers started that series without left fielder Delmon Young, who’d strained an oblique muscle. He was later added to the roster when Magglio Ordonez fractured his ankle in Game 1, but was bothered by the lingering pain all series long.

Rookie reliever Al Alburquerque, such a find in the first half of the season, never was the same after getting hit in the head by a ball in batting practice in August.

And the catching tandem of Alex Avila and Victor Martinez was hobbling along on one healthy knee between the two of them.

As banged up as they were, it was hardly a representative effort the Tigers were able to give in the series.

Having said that, what are the lessons to be learned?

“Just that we all gained experience by playing together,” Young said. “To get Game 5 in New York and going down to play a hot Texas team, we just knew if we had another opportunity, that we would have a better shot at it this year.”

“Nothing,” Justin Verlander said. “I mean, a lot of guys in this room, it maybe drove us a little bit, just because we had that taste in our mouth of being so close, and not finishing the job. This time, it’s a different story.”

Oh, is it ever.

The Tigers gave up 15 runs in that final loss alone.

Through this year’s ALCS — a span of nine games — they’ve given up a total of 17 runs.

Vastly different.

“It’s unbelievable, because I was here two years ago, and it’s a lot of the same faces. Obviously, we didn’t get it done, we got beat in (Game) 163” in 2009, Gerald Laird said. “Last year, they got beat in the ALCS by a good Texas team. You can just tell they came back and were hungry.”

And perhaps more determined.

“No quit. We don’t quit. We don’t stop. We only keep going. Just keep moving forward,” said Coke, explaining the identity the Tigers have taken on this year.

“You have to beat us. You have to beat us to keep us from going. You have to prove to us we can’t go. You have to get the final out against us, and make it so we can’t go.”

So far this playoffs, that has not happened.

Email Matthew B. Mowery at and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.


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