Last week: 3-3
This week: CLE (9/26-28); ALDS (9/30-10/1)
So, What Happened?
The Tigers clinched the AL Central on September 16 and have been on a win one/lose one see-saw ever since.
In the process they have fallen one game behind the Texas Rangers for home field advantage in the ALDS, with three games to play.
The good news? All the Tigers need to do is tie the Rangers, as the Detroiters hold the tiebreaker.
So somehow the Tigers need to finish with the same amount of wins as the Rangers by end of play on Wednesday.
The Rangers travel to the Angels, while the Tigers host the Indians. If the Rangers sweep, they clinch HFA. If they take two of three, the Tigers need to sweep. If the Rangers lose two of three, the Tigers just need to win two of three.
Or, to make matters simpler: the Rangers’ magic number to clinch HFA is 3 (combination of Texas wins and Tigers losses).
Hero of the Week
There are so many players on the Tigers roster about whom you could ask, “Where would they be without BLANK?”
Among the top among those is Victor Martinez.
Has there been a better off-season free agent signing in the past decade than the Tigers’ signing of V-Mart last winter?
Martinez has been just what the doctor ordered, and then some, for the 2011 Tigers. A quick look at Retrosheet.org or Baseball Reference and then a peek at the lineups the Tigers were running out there in 2010 should show V-Mart’s value immediately.
The no. 5 hitters who hit behind Miguel Cabrera in 2010 included the likes of Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn and a faltering Brennan Boesch. But Martinez has fit into the five hole like a glove (no pun intended, as V-Mart rarely wears one of those!).
Martinez was at it again this week in the Tigers’ victories. He had a walk-off hit on Friday night and clubbed a go-ahead three-run homer on Sunday, which led to another win.
Martinez is now over 100 RBI, joining Cabrera in that category.
Honorable mention: Cabrera.
Goat of the Week
This is likely to be construed as terribly unfair, but MMM is unhappy with Alex Avila for losing sight of an errant pitch in the ninth inning on Saturday night, which enabled the Orioles’ game-winning run to advance from first base to third, setting up a successful squeeze play.
The Tigers had climbed back from yet another 5-0 hole (as they did on Thursday) to tie the game, 5-5. Momentum looked to be going their way. Then Avila, who’s been terrific all year, turned into Mr. Magoo at the worst possible time.
Again, maybe unfair, but who said baseball is fair? Sometimes it’s foul!
Under the Microscope
A few weeks ago Austin Jackson turned as hot as a firecracker and lifted his average to nearly .260 after a year in which he floundered well under .250.
Then, just as quickly, A-Jax cooled off—and when MMM says cooled off, he means like an icicle.
MMM is placing Jackson UtM, not because of his defense (which is still exemplary), but because of his mysterious bat.
If the Tigers want to do some damage in the playoffs, they need Jackson to get on base. His presence on the base paths usually means good things for the rest of the lineup. He is that first domino, if you get the idea.
Disturbingly, after his hot spell, Jackson has returned to the strikeout-prone, easy out that he’s been for most of the season. And that’s not good news for the Tigers’ World Series hopes.
Upcoming: Indians, ALDS
The Cleveland Indians, back in mid-August, were no doubt looking at this week’s final series as one that would actually mean something.
Well, it does—to the Tigers. And, frankly, to the Indians, who have one last chance to play spoilers.
As MMM detailed above, the Tigers need to beat up on the Tribe to keep their HFA hopes alive.
Doug Fister takes the hill on Monday, likely followed by Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner or Max Scherzer.
The ALDS starts Friday, and it’s anyone’s guess where Game 1 will be: Detroit or New York.
Regardless, it’ll be Justin Verlander, of course, in Game 1, followed by Fister on Saturday. Monday’s Game 3 starter will be Scherzer. Game 4’s starter (if necessary) will either be Porcello or Brad Penny, pending the release of the Tigers’ playoff roster.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!
(As the regular season draws to a close, MMM would like to thank everyone who has read the MMM ramblings every week since that opening weekend in Yankee Stadium. Thanks!!!!)