Time for round two, and what better way to start than with Justin Verlander, who will pitch games 1 and 5 of the series (and what better way to end than with Doug Fister, who will once again pitch the deciding game of the series if this one goes 7). The experts seem to agree that Verlander is the key to the series. (We know that it’s actually Don Kelly).
Not that he needs any more motivation, but look for Verlander to have a little extra adrenaline going pitching in Texas in front of his idol Nolan Ryan.
One other key to the series will be how well the Tigers fill in for Delmon Young. Young is off the roster for the series with an obique strain, which means he will be replaced by Ryan Raburn in Left, and Raburn’s spot in the 2B rotation will be taken by Danny Worth, who was added to the ALCS active roster in place of Young (expect Worth to be in the lineup soon: Santiago may be a bit overextended right now, as Kevin suggests).
Young’s spot in the lineup, however, will be taken by Miguel Cabrera, who will move up to the third spot in the lineup. Perhaps the change will do him good; other than the one opposite field home run, Cabrera had a quiet ALDS series, batting only .200 (.800 OPS).
Austin Jackson will need to start getting on base to make Cabrera’s stay in the 3-spot a useful one: Jackson finished the ALDS hitting only .125 (.488 OPS!) and struck out 8 times (38%) which is high even for him. Jackson has yet to put a ball in play to lead off a postseason game–he led off the 5 Yankee games with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks.
The Tigers have struggled against C.J. Wilson in general: the current roster is a combined .203 career against him (.620 OPS), with some of the most reliable Tigers seemingly having the most trouble. Martinez is a career 3-for-17 (.176, .508 OPS), and Jhonny Peralta a career 1-for-14 (.071, .330 OPS…yikes). The only Tiger with a home run against Wilson is Brandon Inge.
The Tigers will also be dealing with the fatigue of a short turnaround and traveling, not to mention hangovers. No, not those hangovers, says Ol’ Smokey. Emotional hangovers.
There isn’t much to add to Kevin’s excellent rundown of the Rangers’ lineup, other than to add that there is a 10th player which we might mention–Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers are a vastly different team at home than on the road: .296 BA, .860 OPS vs .269 BA, .740 OPS (.269, .692 at Comerica). And it isn’t just the Rangers–the Tigers love The Ballpark at Arlington even more. (.373 BA, .990 OPS). Unfortunately the most at-home Tiger, Brennan Boesch (.467, 1.433) is not in the lineup. Adrian Beltre is the biggest Ranger homebody, hitting .326 (1.078) at Arlington, with 23 of his 32 HRs.
Player of the Pre-Game: Ryan Raburn.
He has been Mr. August-September his whole career, posting a ridiculous (for him) .308 BA over those 2 months. Time to see if he can add October to his list. Raburn is a career 2-3 against CJ Wilson.
Today’s Cabby-Gets-to-Bat-in-the-First Lineup: