Blogs > Out of Left Field

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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tigers offseason awards tracker

Here's a quick synopsis of all the postseason awards garnered by Detroit Tigers players after the conclusion of the 2011 season:

• Miguel Cabrera wins Luis Aparicio Award
(best Venezuelan player in MLB)

• Verlander named to The Sporting News' AL All-Star team (unanimous selection)
• Verlander named The Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year
• Verlander wins a pair of Players Choice awards, becoming the second pitcher to win Player of the Year.
• Verlander wins his first AL Cy Young award.
• Verlander bucks the odds, voter bias to become first pitcher in 19 years to win AL Most Valuable Player award.

• Avila named as the catcher for The Sporting News' AL All-Star team
• Avila a finalist for AL Gold Glove at catcher.
• Avila wins his first Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award.

• Valverde named MLB Delivery Man of the Year (best reliever in MLB)

• Jackson a finalist for AL Gold Glove in center field.
• With his league-leading 22 runs saved, Jackson wins the Fielding Bible's 2011 award for center fielders.

• Al-Al was named the 2011 Detroit Tigers Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters' Association.

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Verlander named Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year

As most of the Tigers were packing up their stuff after Game 6 of the American League Division Series, many said a discreet goodbye to staff and reporters before heading to the team bus, most saying some version of "I'll see you in Spring Training."

Except Justin Verlander, who acknowledged his offseason would probably be pretty busy by saying, "I'll probably talk to you guys in a couple of weeks." Anything but being cocky, it was a nod toward the fact that at the conclusion of the postseason, the awards circuit would ramp up, and Velander's expected to win his share after a dominant season.

Sure enough, another of those offseason awards came in Friday, as the Tigers' ace was named the Sporting News' 2011 MLB Player of the Year. He was the first pitcher since Orel Hershisher in 1988 to win the award, voted on by MLB players.

"He's had one of the best seasons for a pitcher. Ever," said Yankees ace CC Sabathia, one of Verlander's key — albeit distant — competitors for yet-to-be-announced awards like the Cy Young.

Verlander, of course, led all big league pitchers in nearly every statistical category this season, including wins, strikeouts, innings pitched and pitches thrown.

The next key date for Verlander's offseason is Tuesday, Nov. 15, when the American League Cy Young is announced. The closest he'd ever previously come to winning the award was finishing third in the 2009 balloting.

After that, there's a chance he may be on a conference call on Monday, Nov. 21, when the AL MVP is unveiled.

Verlander is a four-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year. On Wednesday, he and Alex Avila were named to the Sporting News' postseason AL All-Star squad.

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Tigers pick up team option on Valverde's contract

In a move that will be perhaps the least surprising of the 2012 offseason, the Detroit Tigers announced Friday that they'd picked up the club option on closer Jose Valverde's contract, for $9 million.

Valverde was a perfect 49-for-49 in save chances during the regular season, then went 3-for-3 in the postseason for the Tigers, just the third MLB closer in history to record more than 40 saves without blowing one. Eric Gagne ('03) and Brad Lidge ('08) were the others.

Along the way, Valverde broke Guillermo Hernandez's club record for consecutive saves (set at 32 in 1984), and Todd Jones' club record for saves in a season (set at 42 in 2000). The season earned Valverde a spot on the American League All-Star team midseason for the second year in a row, as well as the MLB Delivery Man of the Year Award, given annually to the game's best reliever.

The Tigers signed Valverde as a free agent from the Houston Astros in January of 2010, giving him a two-year, $14 million contract, with an option for a third year. The option will raise his annual salary slightly from $7 million in 2011 to $9 million next year.

Given his two-year total of 78 saves, and considering the underwhelming crop of closers on the free-agent market (many of them either coming off injury or poor seasons), it's entirely unsurprising the Tigers stuck with a known commodity.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Verlander, Avila named to Sporting News All-Star teams

Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander and his catcher, Alex Avila, were named to the Sporting News AL All-Star team, unveiled on Thursday.

Verlander was the only unanimous selection among the 11 American League honorees, selected by a vote of 26 members of front offices across the league. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was the only other unanimous selection for either team.

Click HERE to see the full teams.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Verlander a finalist for pair of Players Choice Awards

All of a sudden, the awards season is in full swing.

A day after Miguel Cabrera was named the recipient of the Luis Aparicio Award, the Major League Baseball Players Association came out with the list of finalists for the 2011 Players Choice Awards. Tigers ace Justin Verlander is in the running for two of them: American League Outstanding Pitcher and MLB Player of the Year.

Voted on by the honorees' MLB peers near the end of the regular season, the Players Choice Awards will be announced on Nov. 3. The announcement will be broadcast on MLB Network from 8-9 p.m.

Verlander's competition for the Player of the Year Award are former Tigers teammate Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees and Boston's Adrian Gonzalez. The players pick an outstanding player, pitcher and rookie, as well as a comeback player from each league, then an overall Player of the Year and Marvin Miller Man of the Year.

While Verlander won the AL pitching triple crown, leading the league in ERA (2.40) and all of baseball in wins (24) and strikeouts (250), the other two were statistically among the best, as well. Gonzalez finished second to Cabrera for the AL batting title, leading MLB in hits and finishing top-five in total bases, RBI, on-base percentage and extra-base hits. Granderson led the big leagues in runs scored, was second in home runs and third in RBI.

Verlander's competition for the AL Oustanding Pitcher are Tampa Bay's James Shields and LA's Jered Weaver.

Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox, Adam Wainright of the St. Louis Cardinals and Michael Young of the Texas Rangers are the finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.

Full list of finalists:
(Courtesy MLB Players Association)

American League:
Outstanding Player:
Jose Bautista (Toronto), Adrian Gonzalez (Boston),
Curtis Granderson, Jr. (NY Yankees)
Outstanding Pitcher: James Shields (Tampa Bay), Justin Verlander (Detroit),
Jered Weaver (LA Angels)
Outstanding Rookie: Jeremy Hellickson (Tampa Bay), Eric Hosmer (Kansas
City), Mark Trumbo (LA Angels)
Comeback Player: Bartolo Colon (NY Yankees), Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston),
Casey Kotchman (Tampa Bay)

National League:
Outstanding Player:
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee), Matt Kemp (LA Dodgers), Justin
Upton (Arizona)
Outstanding Pitcher: Roy Halladay (Philadelphia), Ian Kennedy (Arizona),
Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers)
Outstanding Rookie: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta), Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta),
Vance Worley (Philadelphia)
Comeback Player: Lance Berkman (St. Louis), Jose Reyes (NY Mets), Ryan
Vogelsong (San Francisco)

Either League:
Player of Year:
Adrian Gonzalez (Boston), Curtis Granderson, Jr. (NY
Yankees), Justin Verlander (Detroit)
Man of the Year: Paul Konerko (Chicago White Sox), Adam Wainwright (St.
Louis), Michael Young (Texas)

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Report: Cabrera wins Luis Aparicio Award's Jason Beck reported Thursday that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera had won the Luis Aparicio Award, honoring the best Venezuelan player in the big leagues, for the second time.

Cabrera also won the award in 2005, as an outfielder for the Florida Marlins in just his first full season in the majors. The award, given out since 2004 and honoring the only Venezuelan player in the Baseball Hall of Fame, is voted on by a panel of Venezuelan media members.

Colorado's Carlos Gomez won the award a year ago. Johan Santana has won the award twice, both times in Cy Young seasons, while Magglio Ordonez (2007) was the only Tigers player to win the award prior to Thursday. Ordonez and Cabrera both won the award for a season in which the won the American League batting title.

The reaction from teammate Brad Penny (@bradpenny) on Twitter: "should win MVP!!!"

Pablo Perez Alvarez (@PabloPerezOf), the governor of the Venezuelan state of Zulia, also sent his Twitter congratulations, calling Cabrera a good "#Example for young Tigers."

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Verlander won't throw again in ALCS, but Porcello is available

ARLINGTON, Texas — There’s no question that the Tigers wouldn’t be back in Texas without Justin Verlander.

But there’s also no question that Verlander will be with them only as a cheerleader, unless they move on.

“If you see Verlander pitch again this year, it will be a good thing, because we’ll be in the World Series. ... He will not pitch in this series. He’s done,” said Leyland, who has ridden his horse for an MLB-high 20.1 innings and 360 pitches in the postseason.

“And if we don’t go on, he threw his last pitch for the season. If we go on, obviously, if we’re fortunate enough to go on, he would pitch Game 1 of the World Series. But you will not see Verlander out of the bullpen tomorrow (in Game 7).”

Verlander, of course threw a MLB-high 3,941 pitches (next closest was LA’s Dan Haren with 167 fewer) and 251 innings. Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo has thrown the second-most pitches in the postseason (313).

Even so, Verlander probably considers himself ready.

“I’ll be ready to go next time whether that’s Game 7 out of the bullpen or Game 1 of the World Series. Hopefully it’s Game 1 of the World Series. But whenever Skip needs me, I’m ready,” Verlander said after throwing a career-high 135 pitches in Thursday’s Game 5 win.

You figure conversations between Leyland and Verlander may sometimes go like this:
“Skip, I can pitch if you need me.”
“Skip, I can pitch if you need ...”
“Skip, I can ...”
“Skip ...”

One of the times that Verlander pestered him near the end of the regular season, Leyland jokingly said, “You’ve been so good this year, why don’t you manage the team?”

Even though he said that he and Leyland don’t always see eye-to-eye on these types of matters, Verlander understands who the boss is, and who makes the decisions.

“He got a lot of flack for not having me in the bullpen for Game 5 in Yankee Stadium. It worked out pretty well. Myself, our team, we have the utmost faith in him, in his decision making,” Verlander said earlier this week. “Whenever my number is called is when I go out there.”

Rick Porcello might be a different story. Friday, Leyland said the fourth playoff starter might be good for a bit of relief in Game 7, should the Tigers get there. Saturday, he amended it to note that Porcello would be available out of the bullpen in Game 6, if needed, as he was in Game 1.

So will Phil Coke — Game 5’s relief ace — and a rested Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.

“Porcello is raring and ready to go. I said (Friday) I probably wasn’t going to use him. But I was at the park with him at that time, and he hadn’t done anything yet. After he did his workout and everything, he said he felt great. His arm feels great. So I will use him,” Leyland said.
“I can’t tell you how I’m going to use him. It’s a feel. As the game goes on, you see what is developing, you might need a ground ball to get a double play, you might use him. I can’t tell you exactly how the game is going to play out.”

And Leyland is well aware that there’s no point in keeping secrets in the postseason.

“There’s no secrets. I can see once in a while if you were may be thinking what you said at a press conference might maybe possibly make a manager write out his lineup a little differently,” Leyland said. “But Ron (Washington, the Rangers’ manager) is going to do what he wants to do. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m telling you that Verlander is not going to pitch tomorrow. What does that mean? How does that help Texas? I don’t think it has anything to do with Texas. It’s (Doug) Fister that’s going to have something to do with tomorrow.
“I just don’t think there’s a lot of secrets at this point. Maybe there are. Maybe I am dumb. I don’t know.”

But he does know that Verlander will not be throwing again in Texas, that’s for sure.

Game 6 ALCS lineups/match-ups (Tigers at Rangers)

Game 5 of the American League Championship Series

When: 8:05 p.m. Saturday
Series: Texas leads, 3-2
Where: Rangers Ballpark at Arlington
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, play-by-play; Tim McCarver, color)
Radio: WYXT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color)

(career numbers vs. Holland in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.000, 0-for-3)
Ryan Raburn, RF (.500, 1-for-2, HR)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.200, 1-for-5, 2B)
Victor Martinez, DH (.250, 1-for-4, HR)
Delmon Young, LF (n/a)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.333, 1-for-3, 2B)
Alex Avila, C (.000, 0-for-2)
Brandon Inge, 3B (.000, 0-for-1)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.333, 1-for-3)

Starting pitcher:
Max Scherzer
2011 regular season: 15-9, 4.43 ERA, 33 GS, 195.0 IP, 174K/56BB, 1.349 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 2 GS, 13.1 IP, 13K/5BB, 1.125 WHIP
Game 2 vs. Texas: ND, 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 1 HR, 6K/1BB
Career vs. Texas: 3-0, 6 GS, 3.41 ERA, 37.0 IP, 37 H, 14 ER, 31K/10BB

(Career vs. Scherzer in parentheses)
Ian Kinsler, 2B (.250, 4-for-16)
Elvis Andrus, SS (.176, 3-for-17)
Josh Hamilton, CF (.267, 4-for-15)
Michael Young, 1B (.211, 4-for-19, 2-3B)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (.357, 5-for-14)
Mike Napoli, C (.111, 1-for-9)
Nelson Cruz, RF (.333, 6-for-18, 2HR)
David Murphy, DH (.250, 4-for-16)
Endy Chavez, LF (.000, 0-for-2)

Starting pitcher:
Derek Holland
2011 regular season: 16-5, .395 ERA, 32 GS, 198.0 IP, 162K/67BB, 1.354 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-0, 2 GS, 6.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 2K/6BB, 1.889 WHIP
Career vs. Detroit:
Game 2 vs. Detroit: ND, 10.13 ERA, 2.2 IP, 4H, 3ER, 0K/4BB

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tigers making no excuses about injuries

Delmon Young's side is still hurting. So is Victor Martinez's.

Wilson Betemit probably isn't totally right. And Alex Avila is "running" like he has a two-ton elephant on his back.

None of those things are being touted as an excuse for the Tigers' 3-1 deficit in the ALCS.

"Not this team. Everybody’s battled all year. And we’re not going to stop playing hard," utilityman Don Kelly said.

"We’re kind of limping through this series right now, and you’ve just got to find a way to get the job done, regardless," Avila said.

"You know, both teams got some guys hurting. I just don't want to make a big deal about that. I don't think that looks good. Do we have some guys? Yeah, I think truth be known, Alex Avila might be hurting as much as any of them. We don't really talk about that as much," manager Jim Leyland said.

"Both teams have that issue at this point. We have no excuses. We've had — these games have been great games, and so far, they've done enough to win three of them, and we've only done enough to win one of them. That pretty much sums it up."

There's no doubt Avila is exhausted. He was behind the plate for 47 of the team's final 49 games in the regular season, and all nine games so far in the postseason.

But he's banged up, too, dealing with a pair of balky knees.

"To be honest with you, this is probably some of the wear and tear that I played him a little too much turning the season, probably. And we ran into that one stretch (in August) where Victor could not catch," Leyland said. "So we really beat him up a little bit more than I would have like to. But he's as tough as they come. There's nobody tougher on our team than him. ... Believe me, I know what these guys are going through. I've been in the trainer's room. You guys don't have that same availability.

"But I know what these guys are going through. It's unbelievable."

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ALCS Game 5 lineups/match-ups (Rangers at Tigers)

Game 5 of the American League Championship Series

When: 4:19 p.m. Thursday
Series: Texas leads, 3-1
Where: Comerica Park
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, play-by-play; Tim McCarver, color)
Radio: WYXT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color)

(postseason numbers in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.182, 6-for-33, 2-2B, 5R, 2RBI, 7BB, 14K)
Ryan Raburn, RF (.300, 6-for-20, 1-2B, 1 HR, 2R, 4RBI, 4BB, 7K)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.276, 8-for-29, 3-2B, 2 HR, 4R, 7RBI, 10BB, 5IBB, 9K)
Victor Martinez, DH (.188, 6-for-32, 2 HR, 3R, 4RBI, 5BB, 6K)
Delmon Young, LF (.222, 6-for-27, 3 HR, 4R, 3RBI, 2BB, 4K)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.242, 8-for-33, 3-2B, 2RBI, 2BB, 6K)
Brandon Inge, 3B (.333, 5-for-15, 1-2B, 1HR, 5R, 1RBI, 2BB, 2K)
Alex Avila, C (.061, 2-for-33, 1RBI, 2BB, 14K)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.250, 8-for-32, 2-2B, 1R, 2RBI, 7K)

Starting pitcher:
Justin Verlander
2011 regular season: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 34GS, 251.0 IP, 250K/57BB, 0.920 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-1, 5.54 ERA, 3GS, 13.0 IP, 11H, 8ER, 17K/7BB
2011 vs. Rangers at home: 0-1, 2.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 6H, 2ER, 4K/1BB

(postseason numbers in parentheses)
Ian Kinsler, 2B (.258, 8-for-31, 3-2B, 4R, 6RBI, 5BB/4K)
Elvis Andrus, SS (.172, 5-for-29, 3R, 1RBI, 5BB/5K)
Josh Hamilton, CF (.273, 9-for-33, 4-2B, 3R, 4RBI, 1BB/3K)
Michael Young, DH (.125, 4-for-32, 2R, 1RBI, 2BB/6K)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (.250, 8-for-32, 2-2B, 3HR, 7R, 5RBI, 1BB/7K)
Mike Napoli, C (.300, 9-for-30, 1 HR, 6R, 5RBI, 2BB/9K)
Nelson Cruz, RF (.207, 6-for-29, 1-2B, 4 HR, 5R, 9RBI, 1BB/7K)
David Murphy, LF (.353, 6-for-17, 1-2B, 1-3B, 2R, 1RBI, 1BB/5K)
Mike Moreland, 1B (.118, 2-for-17, 1HR, 1R, 2RBI, 1BB/4K)

Starting pitcher:
C.J. Wilson
2011 regular season: 16-7, 34 GS, 223.1 IP, 206K/74BB, 1.187 WHIP
2011 postseason: 0-1, 7.45 ERA, 2GS, 9.2 IP, 10R, 8ER, 13H, 12K/6BB
Career at Comerica: 0-0, 1 GS, 5.40 ERA, 6.2 IP, 7H, 4ER, 3BB/4K, 1.500 WHIP

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Quotes from ALCS Game 4

Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Austin Jackson getting caught stealing in the 10th
"Absolutely (he was going on his own). I agreed with it, 100 percent."

Leyland on atmosphere of Game 4
"It's one of the best baseball games I've ever been involved in. Great plays by both teams. We made some great plays. (Ramon) Santiago, (Brandon) Inge, Delmon Young made a great play. (Nelson) Cruz made a great play. One of the best games I've ever been involved with. Just didn't come out the right way."

Rangers catcher Mike Napoli on exciting ALCS
"It's been a great series. If you don't like baseball, you probably don't like it now, watching these games. We expected a tough series, and we've been able to come out on top. And it's been fun."

Leyland on Brandon Inge's game-tying home run in the 7th inning
"It was a dramatic home run, obviously, to tie the game up like it did. Like I said, this was a great baseball game. I'm certainly sorry we didn't win it, but they did a little better than we did."

Leyland on Tigers' prospects, down 3-1 in ALCS
"Well, you know, hopefully we got (Justin) Verlander, (Max) Scherzer and (Doug) Fister. So obviously, we got to win tomorrow. We're sending the guy out there that is obviously pretty good. You win tomorrow, and all of a sudden, it's 3-2. We can count — I know what the situation is. You wouldn't rather have anybody out there other than Justin Verlander. If you win that game, all of a sudden, it gets a little hair again, with Scherzer and Fister ready to go. So that's the way it is. Playoff baseball."

Tigers closer Jose Valverde on Tigers' 3-1 series deficit
"It’s no over yet, you know what I mean? Tomorrow’s a new day. You have to fight, and play. When Texas wins the next game, it’s over, but right now, it’s no over yet."

Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez on Tigers' 3-1 series deficit
"There’s nothing impossible. I remember in ’07, we’ve (the Indians) got Boston, 3-1, they came back to beat us. So why we can’t do it, you know?"

Tigers OF Ryan Raburn on ALCS deficit
"We’re frustrated and disappointed. We’d rather this series be a little bit different, but we can’t change what’s happened in the past. We’ve just got to come out, play our hearts out, and get a win. ... This team’s playing their hearts out right now. We just haven’t been able to pull them out. But there’s nobody playing harder than we are."

Tigers 3B Brandon Inge on the Tigers being pushed to the brink of elimination
"There's no other page to do at this point, we have to go out there and win 'em all at this point. It's unfortunate, obviously, but we're still in it, we're still in it. There's still hope as long as you're able to show up to the ballpark another day in the postseason. So we just have to keep battling."

"That's baseball, though. It's amazing how a matter of an inch makes a difference in two or three runs and those two or three runs make a difference in 3-1 and being up three. That's why we love the game. Knowing that, we can still pull it out. It just takes a couple breaks going our way."

"It's hard, it's very hard. But a lot of us have been in that situation before so we should know how to handle it. It just takes a lot of guys on the team picking up the other guy, telling him to relax, go play, have fun. You can't be stressed out about this game. You have to go play and have fun."

"You can be frustrated all you want. But tomorrow the difference is, you can't carry that frustration into tomorrow. Tomorrow's a new day. You win tomorrow, you stay alive, you keep going. Maybe flip some momentum on them tomorrow. You just gotta keep pressing."

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Walk to Cabrera nearly costs Rangers, but throw to plate bails out Washington

Miguel Cabrera, hitting in the third spot in the lineup for the third time this season, and the second time in two games, cashed in again in Wednesday's Game 4 of the ALCS.

After a 2-for-4 night with a double and a homer Tuesday, he got the Tigers on the board with a two-out double in that third inning, hitting the signage in left-center field on the fly.

That was the only time the Rangers let Cabrera swing, though.

With one out and the bases empty, manager Ron Washington intentionally walked Cabrera — representing the go-ahead run — to get to Victor Martinez, Delmon Young and Alex Avila.
Martinez — who is hitting .390 after a walk to Cabrera — made the Rangers pay momentarily, driving a high chopper over the head of Michael Young at first, willing Cabrera around to third with the Carlton Fisk wave as he ran up the baseline.

“It almost didn’t (work), but we tried to pitch around Cabrera twice, and he got us. So this time, I wasn’t taking any chance,” Washington said. “You know, I just was not going to let him take a swing of the bat, because I took chances before, and he made me pay for it both times. First time, shame on you, next time, shame on me. I respect Martinez a heck of a lot. Once again, he got that base hit and we almost paid for it, but I certainly wasn't going to let (Cabrera) have a swing of the bat there and beat us.”

It worked out for the Rangers when Young lofted a shallow fly to right.

Cabrera tagged and tried to score. The throw from Nelson Cruz beat him to the plate, and catcher Mike Napoli held on, despite getting hit by the 270-pound truck barreling down the third-base line at him.

"I know in that situation, there's probably going to be a collision at the plate, or it's going to be a close play. Crucial time of the game. Nellie gave me a good throw, gave me enough time to where I can brace and get low, and just a great play," Napoli said. "He has one of the best arms in the game. He came up firing, and gave me a good one-hop."

With Cabrera the runner on third, the decision came down to whether or not to be cautious and see if Avila — hitting .059 in the postseason — can come up with a hit, or if you want to be aggressive.

Third base coach Gene Lamont chose the latter.

“I thought it was a great decision to send him. If the throw is off line, he makes it. if it’s not, he’s out. Other than Austin jackson ... I don’t know that anybody would have made it if you threw it on the money,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “You make him throw him out at the plate. It was the right call.”

But in terms of results, the Tigers' strategy didn’t work, and Washington’s did.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chet Lemon honored to throw out first pitch

Holding with the theme of former greats throwing out first pitches prior to their postseason games, the Tigers brought Chet Lemon in to throw out the ceremonial pitch before Wednesday’s Game 4.

“I love it. This is great ... I talked to Dave (Dombrowski, the Tigers GM), and I think it’s an honor,” said Lemon, who knew Dombrowski back in his days with the Chicago White Sox. “To be back here, and see you guys, really it’s great. It’s an honor to throw out the first pitch.”

Lemon played his final nine seasons in Detroit, and was a member of playoff teams in 1984 and 1987. This year’s playoff run is just the second since Lemon’s retirement.

“I’m so excited for the Detroit Tigers, I really am, because I think it would be great for the city. You know, I know the Lions are doing great, they’re 5-0, and you’ve got the Tigers who have a great opportunity to win,” Lemon said. “Actually, I picked them to win the World (Series) championship, because I think just now it seems like the hungrier teams that always appear to do the best. Sometimes, when you get too many $20-million-a-year players, it gets to be a little harder, but when you get the teams that are really, really hungry, and want it, it appears to be the ones (that do well).”

Lemon noted the comparison with the 1984 Tigers, who used the hunger from a near-miss in 1983 to fuel them to a 35-5 start.

“Earlier, when I saw them doing well, it looked like they were separating themselves from the rest of the pack,” he said, “I just said, ‘Man, they appear to have all the necessary ingredients to win a World (Series) championship.’ ”

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Tigers' walking wounded back in lineup for Game 4

You could make an argument for several players as the most valuable player for the Detroit Tigers during the regular season.

In the postseason, there’s no doubt of who’s been the most valuable employee of the organization: trainer Kevin Rand.

With starters for the Tigers dropping like flies, it’s fallen to Rand to keep the squad wired together with duct tape, ace bandages and tongue depressors.

The latest two to get dinged up are Delmon Young and Victor Martinez, both of whom have strained muscles in their sides. Young strained an oblique muscle in Game 5 of the ALDS last Thursday, and has played just once.

Martinez strained an intercostal muscle in his side after his home-run swing in Tuesday’s Game 3 win. He joked after the game, “The only way I don’t play tomorrow is if I wake up, and I’m dead.”

Sure enough, both were back in the lineup for Wednesday’s Game 4, hitting fourth (Martinez) and fifth (Young).

“Victor Martinez is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around. I’m talking about tough. I take my hat off – and Delmon Young the same. I don’t mean to downplay that,” Leyland said. “And Adrian Beltre, the same way. Players on both teams are tough, and I think they’re showing that. And I think they’re showing why they’re who they are. Big-time players expect to be in a lineup. They know the fans want to see them in the lineup. They know it helps their team.

“Actually, for a manager, it’s a little bit different, because you really hae to sit down and think about if the guy wants to play. I appreciate that, but if his effectiveness is not good because of this, just to put him in there, maybe you’re not always doing the right thing.”

While the major injuries are easily quantified — add the season-ending injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Brennan Boesch to those, along with the off-and-on injury status of Carlos Guillen — there are always nicks and bumps and bruises for those who’ve toughed out a full season.
Count catcher Alex Avila among those. Aside from the constant wear and tear of foul tips and blocking balls in the dirt, Avila’s also dealing with a strained knee.

“Pretty well banged up. You know, we’ve had our share of all that stuff, obviously with Magglio and Boesch and you can go on and on. And Alex is banged up pretty good,” Leyland said.
“You talk about tough, what you’re seeing earlier is what these guys are all about. It’s hard for the average person to understand what these guys are going through. His knee was swelling up pretty good not to long ago. The trainers are doing the best they can to take care of that.

“Everybody is banged up.”

But nobody is going to use it as an excuse.

“Not this team. Everybody’s battled all year,” utility man Don Kelly said. “And we’re not going to stop playing hard.”

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Game 4 ALCS lineups/match-ups (Rangers at Tigers)

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers
When: 4:19 p.m. Wednesday
Series: Texas leads, 2-1
Where: Comerica Park
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, play-by-play; Tim McCarver, color)
Radio: WYXT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color)

(averages vs. Harrison in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.500, 5-for-10)
Ryan Raburn (.667, 8-for-12, 2HR)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.400, 6-for-15)
Victor Martinez, DH (.250, 1-for-4)
Delmon Young, LF (n/a)
Alex Avila, C (1.000, 4-for-4, HR)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.286, 2-for-7)
Ramon Santiago (.000, 0-for-4)
Brandon Inge, 3B (.429, 3-for-7, 2HR)

Rick Porcello
2011 regular season: 14-9, 31 GS, 182.0 IP, 4.75 ERA, 104K/46BB, 1.407 WHIP
2011 postseason: 0-1, 2 G, 1 GS, 8.0 IP, 5H, 4ER, 5K, 1BB, 1.000 WHIP
2011 vs. Rangers: 1-0, 1 GS, 1.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 6H, 1ER, 2K/1BB, 1.167 WHIP
2011 at home: 5-5, 14 GS, 5.64 ERA, 83.0 IP, 47K/21BB, 10 HR, 1.482 WHIP

(averages vs. Porcello in parentheses)
Ian Kinsler, 2B (.667, 2-for-3)
Elvis Andrus, SS (.000, 0-for-3)
Josh Hamilton, CF (.000, 0-for-4)
Michael Young, 1B (.500, 3-for-6)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (.143, 1-for-7)
Mike Napoli, C (.167, 1-for-6)
Nelson Cruz, RF (.143, 1-for-7)
David Murphy, LF (4-for-6, 1 HR)
Yorvit Torrealba, DH (n/a)

Matt Harrison
2011 regular season: 14-9, 30 GS, 185.2 IP, 3.39 ERA, 126K/57BB, 1.276 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-0, 1 GS, 4.76 ERA, 5.2 IP, 6H, 3ER, 9K/3BB, 1.588 WHIP
2011 vs. Tigers: 0-2, 6 GS, 10.0 IP, 6.30 ERA, 17H, 7ER, 8K/5BB, 2.200 WHIP
2011 on the road: 6-4, 15 GS, 93.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 62K/34BB, 1.221 WHIP

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Odds are diminishing

So you're saying there's a chance ...

Yes, there's still a chance that the Tigers move on to the World Series, despite falling behind the Texas Rangers, 2-0, in the American League Championship series.

"I don't feel as good as Texas does right now, obviously. But we're playing. They've got to win two more. We have to win four. It's that simple," Jim Leyland said after Monday's 11-inning, 7-3 loss in Game 2. "That's pretty simple math."

But the math is starting to turn sour for the Tigers.

After the Game 1 loss, the chances were just south of 50 percent, given ALCS history. In the 41 years of the series' history, the G1 winner moved on 24 times (58 percent). Since it became a seven-game series, the G1 winner has moved on 13 of 25 times, although the G1 loser has won the ALCS seven of the last 11 years.

The numbers just got worse after Monday's extra-inning loss.

Since the League Championship Series went to a seven-game format in 1985, 18 of 21 teams to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the series managed to move on. Both the 1985 ALCS (Blue Jays) and 1985 NLCS (Dodgers) saw teams blow a 2-0 lead, but it's happened just once since then (2004 Yankees).

The upside, I suppose, is that the Rangers won just once at Comerica in six tries during the regular season. The next three games — starting with Game 3 Tuesday night at 8 — are at Comerica Park.

"We’re going home, and like we’ve been doing all season, turn the page, come back (Tuesday), a whole new ballgame, and keep playing hard," said Victor Martinez, dismissing the thought that Monday's loss meant any more or less because of its heartbreaking nature. "Like we’ve been doing the whole year, if we lose 2-1, 3-2 — or 10-1, 10-2 — we’re still losing the game, so we just turn the page. Come back (Tuesday), and it’ll be good. We’re going home."

Monday's starter, Max Scherzer, agreed.

"We’ve gotta take care of business at home. ... These have been very tight ballgames, so there’s no reason we can’t win them," he said.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Rangers pitching very carefully around Cabrera

The Texas Rangers are not going to let the American League batting champion, Miguel Cabrera, beat them in the American League Championship Series.

They're pitching very carefully around the big man, and it's part of the reason the Tigers — the lowest-scoring team in the Divisional Series round — are averaging just north of three runs (3.14) runs per game in the postseason, scoring no more than that in either game this series.

It didn't help that the Tigers as a team were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Before Ryan Raburn's three-run, third-inning home run, the Tigers had been 2-for-29 with runners in scoring position. For comparison, Cabrera hit .388 with men in scoring position in the regular season, while Victor Martinez hit .394.

With a base open in the ninth inning, Rangers manager Ron Washington chose to walk Cabrera in to load the bases for Martinez. Closer Neftali Feliz — who can be wild at times — got Martinez to pop out to short to end the threat. The against-the-book decision paid off, it seems.

"No, it didn't go against my book when you had to pick your poison there. You had to decide if you wanted to give Cabrera a chance to beat you, or you had to go with Martinez who can also beat you," Washington said.

"When this series started, we said we were not going to give Cabrera a chance to swing the bat and beat us, so Martinez had to do it. Neffy come in and get all kinds of hitters out. Lefties, righties and if there's any other different kind. It was just one of those things where you had to pick your poison. And we decided to go with Martinez and he got him."

Cabrera is now hitting .217 in the postseason. Outside of his 3-for-4 day in Game 2 of the ALDS, he's had just two hits, including Monday's double.

Is there something not going right? A different approach that's not working?

"He's been — I've seen him locked in for the last two months unbelievable. He looked like a man on a mission to win the batting title. I think he's still on that mission," Leyland said. "So that might be a better question for him. I don't see anything. Every once in a while he strays, swings at a bat pitch. But that happens to everybody.
"So I don't really see any difference. I think he's been on a mission for a couple of months. I think he made up his mind he was going to win the batting title, and he won it."

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Leyland explains dispute of third-inning ruling from umpires

The way Tigers manager Jim Leyland came sprinting out of the dugout at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington during Monday evening's Game 2 of the ALCS, you knew he was figuring the call the umpiring crew had just made was going to cost the Tigers.

He argued vociferously with Tim Welke and his crew for several minutes before heading back off the field.

Here was the situation. With the Tigers already trailing, 2-0, Miguel Cabrera hit a one-out double. One batter later, Victor Martinez appeared to either be hit on the back foot by a wild pitch, or swing at it. He took off jogging for first. Cabrera, seeing the ball skip past Rangers catcher Mike Napoli and nobody moving, took off from second and came all the way home to score.

After an initial discussion, the umpires sent Cabrera back to second, and put VMart on first, saying he'd been hit by the pitch, making it a dead ball, instead of a wild pitch.

Leyland's explanation:
"I'm going to explain the only reason I was upset. I knew the ball hit him, OK? But it wasn't called, OK? He checked the ball for (shoe) polish, and it wasn't called," the manager said. "The reason I was upset is myself — and I believe every manager in the league that goes out on a call like that, and asks an umpire to get help, they tell you they can't get help on that. If somebody would have seen it, they come in right away to say they saw it, and they call it. Nobody moved. Nobody came in.

"So my question to them was, 'Who saw it?' And if somebody saw it, why didn't they come in right away and call it? I wasn't questioning at all whether or not he got hit. I was questioning the process by which I've been told all year ... that's normally one where they say they can't get help on that one.

"If somebody would have seen that, they would've come right in and call it right away. Yes, definitely it hit him. I saw it. And nobody moved. That's the only reason I was upset about it. Nobody moved."

The kicker of the whole thing? Ryan Raburn homered five pitches later, making it all a moot point, anyway.

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Game 2 ALCS lineups/match-ups (Tigers at Rangers)

When: Monday, Oct. 11
Time: 4:19 p.m. (ET)
Where: Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, Texas
Series: Rangers lead, 1-0

The Tigers got their first good news of the playoffs, apparently, having Delmon Young ready to go just four days after straining his oblique in Game 5 of the ALDS. He'll be in the lineup for the Tigers in Monday's Game 2 of the ALCS, batting third.

(Career against Holland in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.000, 0-for-3)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.000, 0-for-1)
Delmon Young, LF (.500, 6-for-12, 2HR)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.000, 0-for-3)
Victor Martinez, DH (.333, 1-for-3, HR)
Ryan Raburn, RF (.000, 0-for-1)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.000, 0-for-1)
Alex Avila, C (n/a)
Brandon Inge, 3B (.000, 0-for-1)

Starting pitcher:
Max Scherzer
2011 regular season: 15-9, 4.43 ERA, 33 GS, 195.0 IP, 174K/56BB, 1.349 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-0, 1.23 ERA, 2G, 1GS, 7.1 IP, 4H, 1ER, 7K/4BB
2011 vs. Texas: 1-0, 4.76 ERA, 3GS, 17.0 IP, 21H, 9ER, 12K/4BB, 1.471 WHIP

(Career vs. Scherzer in parentheses)
Ian Kinsler, 2B (.308, 4-for-13)
Elvis Andrus, SS (.133, 2-for-15)
Josh Hamilton, CF (.167, 2-for-12)
Michael Young, DH (.250, 4-for-16)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (.364, 4-for-11)
Mike Napoli, C (.167, 1-for-6)
Nelson Cruz, RF (.267, 4-for-15)
David Murphy, LF (.286, 4-for-15)
Mitch Moreland, 1B (.250, 2-for-8)

Starting pitcher:
Derek Holland
2011 regular season: 16-5, 3.95 ERA, 32 GS, 198 IP, 4 CG, 4 SHO, 22 HR, 1.354 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-0, 1.42 ERA, 1 GS, 6.1 IP, 7H, 3R, 1ER, 2K/2BB, 1.421 WHIP
2011 vs. Tigers: (did not pitch vs. Tigers in 2011)
2011 home splits: 8-2, 4.69 ERA, 16 GS, 86.1 IP, 9 HR, 71K/34BB

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Delmon Young replaces Magglio Ordonez on active roster

The Tigers spent 16 hours deliberating how they'd fill Magglio Ordonez's roster spot, after getting confirmation Monday that he was done for the season with a re-fracture of his right ankle.

Tuesday morning, the team confirmed that it would put outfielder Delmon Young back on the active roster in Ordonez's spot. Young was initially left off the roster for the American League Championship Series after straining an oblique muscle in his side in Game 5 of the AL Division Series on Thursday.

There were not a whole lot of minor-league options for the Tigers to replace Ordonez with another right-handed outfield bat — a premium against the Rangers' stacked rotation of left-handed pitchers — so the decision may have come down to whether or not they thought Young might be able to help by the end of the series. Any other choice probably would have just been an insurance policy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tigers: Rotation will stay the same for ALCS

With rain disrupting Tigers ace Justin Verlander's Game 1 start on Saturday — just like it had in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against New York — there was some discussion after the game about whether the rotation would be altered to bring him back before his next scheduled start.

Manager Jim Leyland confirmed Sunday afternoon that he'd had decided to keep his rotation the same. Max Scherzer is scheduled to start Sunday's Game 2, followed by Doug Fister in Game 3 at Detroit on Tuesday.

"My rotation will stay exactly the same. Verlander, I know that will be a big question, so I'll take that off your mind, as well. He'll pitch Game 5 under any circumstances," Leyland said.

Projected Game 4 starter Rick Porcello came into Game 1 after two rain delays — totaling 110 minutes — ended Verlander's night at five innings pitched, and 82 pitches. Porcello got through two innings of relief with just 22 pitches. The thought was it might have been few enough for Verlander to take Porcello's spot in the rotation on Wednesday.

"When we get done (here), we're going to go down and look at it. We started to map out a couple of things during the one rain delay," Jim Leyland said at the postgame press conference. "But we don't have anything for you at this time. Certainly there's no tricks. We're not trying to hide anything. We just haven't figured it all out. As soon as we do, we'll ... get it out on the wire."

After lobbying to come in after both rain delays, Verlander admitted after the game that he figured he could go again in Game 4, if needed.

"I'm sure I could," he said.

Asked if he'd put that into the discussion with Leyland, he said, "I'm sure I will."

And apparently, that discussion fell on deaf ears, just like the earlier entreaties.

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Will Rhymes "very confused" by ninth-inning strategy

Plenty of folks have questioned the strategies of the Detroit Tigers throughout this season, on and off the field.

Count infielder Will Rhymes, who is not on the playoff roster, among those questioning the moves after Saturday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

He posted the following on Twitter:

"I turned the game off when danny ran for santi, they are the same speed at best. Very confused. Ill check the box tomorrow"

Here's the situation he was talking about: Ramon ("Santi") Santiago, the starter at second base, got on in the ninth inning with a bunt single. As he represented the tying run, the Tigers had Danny Worth pinch run for him at first one out later. Worth, another infielder, was added to the roster when Delmon Young had to be left off for this round, because of an oblique injury.

The validity of the strategy became moot when Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz struck out the side — getting pinch hitter Wilson Betemit, followed by Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn.

UPDATE: Rhymes sent out a clarifying tweet shortly after noon on Sunday.

"Some of you guys need to lighten up. It is so stressful for me watching these games, sometimes I just have to turn them off."

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

ALCS Game 1 lineups/match-ups (Tigers at Rangers)


Where: Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, Arlington, Texas
When: 8:05 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color commentary)

(Career vs. Wilson in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.333, 1-for-3, 3B)
Ryan Raburn, LF (.667, 2-for-3, 2B)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.250, 1-for-4, 2B)
Victor Martinez, DH (.176, 3-for-17, 2B)
Magglio Ordonez, RF (.000, 0-for-2)
Alex Avila, C (n/a)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.071, 1-for-14, 2B)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.200, 1-for-5)
Brandon Inge, 3B (.200, 1-for-5)

Starting pitcher:
Justin Verlander
2011 regular season: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 34 GS, 251.0 IP, 250K/57BB, 0.920 WHIP
2011 postseason: 1-0, 5.00 ERA, 2 GS, 9.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 12K/5BB, 1.222 WHIP
Career postseason: 2-2, 5.85 ERA, 6 GS, 30.2 IP, 32 H, 19 ER, 35K/15BB, 1.533 WHIP
2011 vs. Rangers: 0-1, 2.00 ERA, 1 GS, 1 CG, 9.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4K/1BB, 0.778 WHIP
Career vs. Rangers: 6-2, 2.31 ERA, 9 GS, 58.1 IP, 47 H, 15 ER, 58K/15BB, 1.063 WHIP
Career in Arlington: 3-0, 1.29 ERA, 3 GS, 21.0 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 26K/4BB, 0.810 WHIP

(career vs. Verlander in parentheses)
Ian Kinsler, 2B (.167, 3-for-18)
Elvis Andrus, SS (.091, 1-for-11)
Josh Hamilton, CF (.364, 4-for-11)
Michael Young, DH (.231, 6-for-26)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (.281, 9-for-23, HR)
Mike Napoli, C (.200, 3-for-15, HR)
Nelson Cruz, RF (.111, 1-for-9)
David Murphy, LF (.231, 1-for-11)
Mitch Moreland, 1B (.333, 1-for-3)

Starting pitcher:
C.J. Wilson
2011 regular season: 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 34 GS, 3 CG, 223.1 IP, 206K/74BB; 1.187 WHIP
2011 postseason: 0-1, 10.80 ERA, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 HR, 6K/1BB, 1.600 WHIP
Career postseason: 1-3, 4.91 ERA, 5 GS, 29.1 IP, 24 H, 16 ER, 7 HR, 23K/11BB, 1.193 WHIP
2011 vs. Tigers: 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 4K/3BB, 1.500 WHIP
Career vs. Tigers: 0-1, 5.56 ERA, 7G/1GS, 11.1 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 11K/6BB, 1.588 WHIP
Career in Arlington: 27-14, 3.89 ERA, 38 GS, 379.1 IP, 29 HR, 1.279 WHIP

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Delmon Young out for ALCS

The Tigers knew they were going to need all the right-handed hitters they could put together for the American League Championship Series, where they'll be facing the lefty-heavy rotation of the Texas Rangers.

But they won't have Delmon Young, who clubbed three home runs in the AL Division Series against the Yankees. Young left the deciding Game 5 against the Yankees with a strained oblique injury in his side on Thursday. He was checked out by doctors on Friday, but later told reporters that he was having trouble throwing.

The Tigers left Young off the ALCS roster to start, replacing him with Danny Worth, apparently the best option "plan(s) B" that manager Jim Leyland and staff discussed in a Friday meeting.

Should rest improve Young's injury situation, the Tigers could add him to the roster later as an injury replacement. The conundrum the Tigers were in, however, was that if they carried him on the ALCS roster, and needed to replace him midway through, he'd be ineligible to play the rest of the way through the playoffs. By leaving him off, they can add him to the roster again later, should they advance to the World Series.

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ALCS prediction: This one's going six games

My mother taught me to recycle. Therefore, I won't change my prediction too much from what I went with to start out the postseason (you can check my work HERE).

Season series — 6-3 Tigers. Detroit may have started to turn around its early fortunes with a pair of walk-off wins against the defending AL champs in mid-April, then taking two of three in Arlington, Texas, in early June put the Tigers on the brink of taking the AL Central lead for the first time.
But the two teams are quite a bit different from most of those matchups. The Tigers, for instance, did not have Delmon Young yet (and won't again, now that he's been ruled out with an oblique injury), but did have Brennan Boesch, who bashed in Arlington. Rangers sluggers Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre both missed significant parts of the regular-season series with the Tigers.
Why this matchup should scare the Tigers: The Yankees may have been the best power-hitting team, but the Rangers are the best hitting team, period. Led by Michael Young and last year’s MVP, Hamilton, and Beltre, the Rangers are hitting at a .282 clip as a team, and their pitching is good enough, especially after dealing for bullpen arms at the deadline. Mike Napoli has had some of the biggest home runs of the season for the Rangers in the past two weeks, helping the Rangers clinch home-field advantage on the last night of the regular season, then get past the Rays in four games. Beltre has 15 home runs in his last 20 games.
C.J. Wilson on facing Detroit ace Verlander in Game 1: "No one is going to dispute how good he is, how good of a season he had. But at the same time, we beat him earlier this year. So I feel like we have a team that can hit anybody."
Why it shouldn’t scare the Tigers: Detroit can slug with any team, and has proven that it can outslug even the Rangers. Outside of the powerful Ogando, Texas’ lefty-heavy rotation doesn’t present all that much of a scare for the Tigers’ righty-heavy lineup. The Tigers had a losing or .500 record against everybody in the AL West but the best team.
Alexi Ogando has all three of the wins against the Tigers — nearly unheard of for a non-divisional opponent these days — but the former reliever hasn’t been as good as his All-Star start of late, his pumped-up workload probably a big part of the reason he ran out of gas down the stretch, and will be in the bullpen for the ALCS.
Outside of Ogando, the other three starters in the Rangers rotation who faced the Tigers (they missed Derek Holland), compiled an 0-3 record in five starts, with a 10.00 ERA and a WHIP of 2.333 (44 hits, 12 walks).
While Verlander is lined up for Games 1 and 5, the Tigers will also get two outings from Max Scherzer (G2/6) and Doug Fister (G3/7), who both got wins in the ALDS.
Prediction: Tigers in six, with a lot of 6-5, 8-6 scores.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Kelly relishes Yankee Stadium home run

Tigers manager Jim Leyland tends to tear up a bit when the subject of utility man Don Kelly comes up.

And Thursday's first-inning home run was no exception.

“I’m real proud of him. It couldn't happen to a better kid. To have this moment in Yankee Stadium for Donnie Kelly, you’ve got your stars, but to happen to a guy like this, that’s real special,” Leyland said, tearing up. “That’s a memory he’ll have. Cabrera and those guys are going to have millions of memories, but this is one that Donnie Kelly will have forever. It’s a real special moment.”

For Kelly — who said the time between Thursday's deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series and Friday's workout prior to the AL Championship Series in Arlington, Texas, was a blur — the moment was real when it happened.

"The thing that I remember about it is hitting it, and once I knew it was gone, I came around second base, and it was like the whole stadium was silent, except for the Tigers family section," Kelly said.

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Young questionable to start ALCS

ARLINGTON, Texas — If you were picking an MVP for the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series win over the Yankees, bet that Delmon Young makes the short list of candidates.

The slugger, who hit eight home runs in the 40 games he played with the team after he was acquired by trade, hit three more in the five-game ALDS win over the Yankees, becoming the first in franchise history to ever slug three in a series.

With the Tigers facing a lefty-heavy rotation for the Rangers in the AL Championship Series, Young should be a huge factor — if he can play.

Young left Thursday’s Game 5 with a strain of an oblique muscle in his left side.
“He’s being evaluated right now. ... We’ll see if they have to take any further steps than an evaluation. We’re hoping not. He actually felt better last night, later,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before Friday’s workout.

Young was going to try to take batting practice, but did not. If he cannot go, the Tigers staff will likely switch up the playoff roster.

“We really haven’t discussed that yet. We do have — I will say plans B, not plan B. We have plans B,” said Leyland, who was going to discuss the issue with the coaching staff and GM Dave Dombrowski after the workout.

Young was immediately plugged into the lineup in the No. 3 spot, in front of Miguel Cabrera, the minute he was acquired, and sat just two games down the stretch. Despite being nearly impossible to walk (five in 178 plate appearances), Young has gotten plenty of strikes to swing at, given who comes up behind him.

“That was the first thing he told me when he got here. I told him he was going to hit third. I said, ‘Are you OK with that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, are you kidding me? Hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera? I’m really happy with that.’ It’s worked well for us. He extended our lineup a little bit,” Leyland said.

The first option to replace Young would probably be Ryan Raburn, who is a sure bet to be in the lineup, either in left field, or at second base. Magglio Ordonez, who hit .385 in the 19 games he played after the Young trade, would likely move back into his old slot in the No. 3 spot.

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ALCS game schedule, rotations

The American League Championship Series

(All ALCS games on FOX Sports)

Game 1, Saturday, 8:05 p.m. at Texas
Justin Verlander , RHP (24-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson , LHP (16-7, 2.94)

Game 2, Sunday, 7:45 p.m. at Texas
Max Scherzer, RHP (15-9, 4.43 ERA) vs. Derek Holland, LHP (16-5, 3.95 ERA)

Game 3, Tuesday, 8:05 p.m. at Detroit
Doug Fister
, RHP (11-13, 2.83 ERA) vs. Colby Lewis, RHP (14-10, 4.40 ERA)

Game 4, Wednesday, 4:19 p.m. at Detroit
Rick Porcello
, RHP (14-9, 4.75 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison, LHP (14-9, 3.39 ERA)

Game 5, Thursday, 4:19 p.m. at Detroit (if necessary)
Verlander vs. Wilson

Game 6, Saturday, Oct. 15, 8:05 p.m. at Texas (if necessary)
Scherzer vs. Holland

Game 7, Sunday, Oct. 16, 8:05 p.m at Texas (if necessary)
Fister vs. Lewis

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ALDS GAME 5 LIVE CHAT (Tigers at Yankees)

Best of 5 series tied 2-2

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
(Brian Anderson, play-by-play; John Smoltz and Ron Darling, color)
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color commentary)

At stake: A berth in the AL Championships Series, opposite the Texas Rangers. If the Yankees win tonight, the Rangers fly to New York. If the Tigers win, they head to Arlington, Texas, for Saturday's Game 1. It's win or go home for both.

The only time the Tigers played a winner-take-all Game 5 was the 1972 ALCS, when they lost to the Oakland A's. The Tigers' only other appearances in a five-game series were the 1984 ALCS (a three-game sweep) and the 2006 ALDS (a four-game win over the Yankees). The franchise also played winner-take-all games (Game 7) in the World Series in 1940 (L), 1945 (W) and 1968 (W).

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Game 5 ALDS lineups/match-ups (Tigers at Yankees)

Best of 5 series tied 2-2

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
(Brian Anderson, play-by-play; John Smoltz and Ron Darling, color)
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color commentary)

(series average in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.083, 1-for-12, 2R, 4BB, 5K)
Don Kelly, 3B (.429, 3-for-7, 2R, 1RBI, 2R)
Delmon Young, LF (.267, 4-for-15, 3R, 2HR, 2RBI, 2BB, 1K)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.250, 3-for-12, 2R, 1HR, 3RBI, 4BB, 3K)
Victor Martinez, DH (.214, 3-for-14, 1R, 1HR, 2RBI, 2BB, 5K)
Magglio Ordonez, RF (.375, 3-for-8, 1R, 1BB, 1K)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.267, 4-for-15, 2-2B, 1RBI, 4K)
Alex Avila, C (.000, 0-for-12, 1RBI, 2BB, 6K)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.200, 2-for-10, 1-2B, 2 RBI, 1K)

Starting pitcher:
Doug Fister
2011 regular season: 11-13, 32 GS, 2.83 ERA, 216.1 IP, 146K, 1.063 WHIP, 0.5 HR/9 (led AL)
2011 with Detroit: 8-1, 1.79 ERA, 70.1 IP, 57K, 0.839 WHIP, 6.9 H/9
2011 road splits: 5-7, 15 GS, 3.36 ERA, 8 HR, .243 BA, 11 GDP, 1.082 WHIP
Game 1 line: 4.2 IP, 7H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1.929 WHIP

Relief pitching: Manager Jim Leyland has said Justin Verlander is not going to be used in relief, and he'd like to keep from using anyone but Fister, LHP Phil Coke, RHP Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde. Game 2 starter Max Scherzer is also available, per reports from NY today.

(series numbers in parentheses)
Derek Jeter, SS (.263, 5-for-19, 5R, 1-2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7K)
Curtis Granderson, CF (.250, 4-for-16, 4R, 1-2B, 1-3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 6K)
Robinson Cano, 2B (.294, 5-for-17, 1R, 2-2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 4K, 2BB)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B (.143, 2-for-14, 1R, 3 RBI, 3K, 3BB)
Mark Teixeira, 1B (.133, 2-for-15, 2R, 1-2B, 5K, 1BB)
Nick Swisher, RF (.200, 3-for-15, 1R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4K 1BB)
Jorge Posada, DH (.400, 4-for-10, 4R, 1-3B, 5K, 4BB)
Russell Martin, C (.231, 2-for-14, 3R, 2K, 2BB)
Brett Gardner, LF (.385, 5-for-13, 3R, 1-2B, 5 RBI, 3K, 1BB)

Starting pitcher:
Ivan Nova
2011 regular season: 16-4, 27 GS, 165.1 IP, 98 K, 1.331 WHIP
Game 1 line: 6.1 IP, 4H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 1.263 WHIP
2011 home splits: 8-2, 14 GS, 4.11 ERA, 46 K, 10 HR, 1.406 WHIP

Relief pitching: Manager Joe Girardi has said everyone — including ace CC Sabathia — is available.

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Jose Valverde named MLB Delivery Man of the Year

Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde is named the MLB Delivery Man of the Year Award, given yearly to the best relief pitcher in the big leagues. The award is voted by fans.

Valverde was 49-for-49 in save chances in the regular season, posting a 2.24 ERA in 72.1 innings pitched. He led the American League in appearances (75), games finished (70) and saves (49). Valverde was named to the AL All-Star team for the second straight year with the Tigers, after making one All-Star Game appearance with the Diamondbacks in 2007.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It ain't over until it's over ...

Tuesday's Game 4 of the American League Division Series is an elimination game — everyone knows that. Jim Leyland felt no need to say anything to his team.

"I hope they know that we only got to win one to win this thing. No, I'm not one, 'win one for the skipper,' and all that stuff. No. That doesn't go in this business," Leyland said.
"Pretty much stay normal. Obviously we all know what's at stake tonight if we can pull this off, and what a nice moment this would be for the city. But, no, I don't really give any 'we gotta win this game.'

"I never talk to my team about winning, to be honest with you. I talk about preparing to win. I don't talk about we have to win, we have to win. I say no, we have to prepare. If we prepare, we give it our best shot. Whatever happens happens."

Nor did he want to make this out as a must-win for his own squad.

"I'm not going to put that pressure on anybody. We have to win another game, whether it's here or New York, whatever happens," Leyland said. "Everybody acts like all of a sudden this opponent isn't real good. This is one of the great teams in all of baseball. It's not easy to beat this team. I'm not going to put a lot of emphasis ... sure, we want to win it tonight. You know, would it be a perfect scenario to win in front of your home crowd? Would it be great? Would it be the gingerbread and all that? It would be beautiful. I'm not going to say we have to win this game or the series is over. We're going to play the game tonight and try to win it. The Yankees are going to play it and they're gonna try to win it.
"If they win, then we go there and they'll feel real good because it's in front of their fans. We gotta win one, they gotta win two."

The Tigers don't want to go back to New York for a Game 5, but they know that the Yankees are going to fight and claw to avoid elimination, too.

"Nothing’s going to be a slam dunk, no matter what. We’ve seen it before, teams in the World Series before, down three games, and come all the way back," Brandon Inge said. "You just have to take every game, one step at a time. You can’t get too cocky in the postseason. You just go out there, and do your business, and hopefully the chips will fall in place."

Especially now that the Rangers have clinched a berth in the American League Championship Series, the Tigers don't want to get caught looking ahead. If that happens, the Yankees could steal one, then grab the advantage back by sending it to a Game 5 at home.

And in a series like this one, momentum can turn on a dime.

"It can change on an inning. That's the bottom line. It can change on one at-bat. Because it is such a short series and teams get momentum and things can change," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think you see how hard both teams are playing because you want to try to stay away from that, and if you are down, you're trying to change the momentum."

Tigers not discounting A.J. Burnett

Lots of fans — those of the Yankees, and those of the Tigers, too — are underestimating New York starter A.J. Burnett. His struggles this season probably warrant that.

"I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like. People are entitled to their opinion. Obviously I give them reasons here and there to doubt," he said Monday. "The bottom line is I have confidence in myself. My teammates have confidence in me, my staff. To go out and I'm not going to go out and try to prove anything. I'm going to go out and try to win a ballgame."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland certainly isn't doubting the veteran right-hander, either.

"I'm not underestimating him a bit. He's got great stuff. A.J. Burnett is capable of going out and throwing a two-hitter tonight. I know that. He has great stuff. You know the scenario is ... this is a good situation for A.J., I think, on this stage tonight. People are hot and cold about A.J. and everything. Not us. We know what a great talent he is. If he gets it going, he can wipe you out," Leyland said prior to Tuesday's Game 4, a possible elimination game.

"We're very concerned about it. But that's the way it is. I mean, you're going to see a good pitcher in the playoffs and you're going to see a guy tonight with electric stuff, that if he has his command going and everything, we're going to have to work our fannies off.

"And the key to tonight's game is gonna be not A.J. Burnett, it's going to be Rick Porcello, in my opinion. Rick Porcello has to give us a chance to win the game, because if A.J., you know, cranks one up that's really good, you're going to have to keep that other team down to have a chance to win the game. We're aware of that. He's a tremendous talent."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't hesitate to throw his support behind his embattled pitcher after Monday's game, which put the Yankees on the brink of elimination.

"I feel good about it. I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us tomorrow," said Girardi, who was originally planning to get through the ALDS with a three-man rotation.

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Game 4 ALDS lineups/match-ups (Yankees at Tigers)

Tuesday, 8:37 p.m.
Where: Comerica Park, Detroit
Series: Tigers lead, 2-1
(Brian Anderson, play-by-play; John Smoltz and Ron Darling, color)
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270)
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color commentary)

(career vs. Burnett in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.500, 1-for-2, HR)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.250, 1-for-4)
Delmon Young, LF (.200, 3-for-15)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.214, 3-for-14)
Victor Martinez, DH (.259, 7-for-27, HR)
Don Kelly, RF (.000, 0-for-2)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.231, 3-for-13)
Alex Avila, C (.500, 1-for-2)
Wilson Betemit, 3B (.261, 6-for-23)

Rick Porcello
2011 regular season: 14-9, 31 GS, 182.0 IP, 4.75 ERA, 1.407 WHIP
2011 home splits: 5-5, 14 GS, 83.0 IP, 5.64 ERA, .350 BA, 1.482 WHIP
Career vs. Yankees: 2-2, 4 GS, 5.56 ERA, 22.2 IP, 1.544 WHIP

(career vs. Porcello in parentheses)
Derek Jeter, SS (.000, 0-for-9)
Curtis Granderson, CF (.400, 2-for-5)
Robinson Cano, 2B (.455, 5-for-11)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B (.250, 1-for-4)
Mark Teixeira, 1B (.100, 1-for-10)
Nick Swisher, RF (.300, 3-for-10, HR)
Jorge Posada, DH (.333, 3-for-9)
Russell Martin, C (.250, 1-for-4)
Brett Gardner, LF (.111, 1-for-9)

A.J. Burnett
2011 regular season: 11-11, 32 GS, 5.15 ERA, 190.1 IP, 1.434 WHIP, 31 HR, AL-worst 25 wild pitches
2011 road splits: 4-5, 14 GS, 76.0 IP, 6.28 ERA, 12 HR, 1.632 WHIP
Career vs. Tigers: 4-2, 6.33 ERA, 42.2 IP, 1.500 WHIP
Career at Comerica: 2-2, 7.17 ERA, 21.1 IP, 21 H, 17 ER, 3 HR, 1.359 WHIP
Career postseason: 1-2, 6 GS, 5.67 ERA, 33.1 IP, 1.410 WHIP
Last seven starts: 2-2, 35.2 IP, 44 H, 30 ER, 16 BB, 9 HR, .301 BA, 7.57 ERA

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Game 3 ALDS lineups/match-ups (Yankees at Tigers)

Game 3 (tied at 1-1)
Where: Comerica Park
When: Monday, 8:37 p.m.
(Brian Anderson, play-by-play; Ron Darling and John Smoltz, color)
Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1) and AM (1270).
(Dan Dickerson, play-by-play; Jim Price, color)

(averages against Sabathia in parentheses)
Austin Jackson, CF (.267, 4-for-15, HR)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (.292, 7-for-24)
Delmon Young, LF (.160, 4-for-25, HR)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.529, 9-for-17, 2 HR)
Victor Martinez, DH (.231, 6-for-26, 2 HR)
Magglio Ordonez, RF (.264, 19-for-72, 3 HR)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (.059, 1-for-17)
Alex Avila, C (.125, 1-for-8)
Brandon Inge, 3B (.190, 11-for-58, HR)

Starting pitcher:
Justin Verlander
2011 regular season: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 250 K, 0.920 WHIP
2011 postseason: 0-0, 1 GS, 9.00 ERA, 1 K, 2.00 WHIP
Career vs. Yankees: 4-3, 10 GS, 3.97 ERA, 1.500 WHIP
Career postseason: 1-2, 5 GS, 22.2 IP, 5.96 ERA, 1.676 WHIP

(career vs. Verlander in parentheses)
Derek Jeter, SS (.163, 8-for-49, 3 HR)
Curtis Granderson, CF (.167, 1-for-6, HR)
Robinson Cano, 2B (.167, 4-for-24)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B (.182, 4-for-22)
Mark Teixeira, 1B (.136, 3-for-22, HR)
Nick Swisher, RF (.163, 8-for-49, 3 HR)
Jorge Posada, DH (.333, 7-for-21)
Russell Martin, C (.400, 2-for-5)
Brett Gardner, LF (.375, 3-for-8)

Starting pitcher
CC Sabathia
2011 regular season: 19-8, 33 GS, 3.00 ERA, 237.1 IP, 230 K, 1.226 WHIP
2011 postseason: 0-0, 1 GS, 2.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4K
Career vs. Tigers: 15-12, 32 GS, 202.0 IP, 4.54 ERA, 165 K, 26 HR
Career postseason: 7-4, 14 GS, 79.1 IP, 4.65 ERA, 75 K, 1.538 WHIP
Career at Comerica Park: 7-5, 14 GS, 92.0 IP, 4.30 ERA, 75 K, 1.152

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