After 162 games and 162 game posts and after how many countless ups and downs, here are the Tigers right where we expected them to be from the first “Play Ball!” on the chilly April Fool’s Day that began the season: right where they were last season, beginning play in the ALDS against Oakland, representing the Central Division.
The Tigers didn’t exactly finish the season with a roar: they lost 5 of their last 7, and only scored 14 runs in the process, a meager output for what is supposed to be one of the best offenses in the league. But this is a new season right now: all bets are off, we start over from scratch, and there is no such thing as momentum (just ask Cleveland, after they roared into the Wild Card game off of a 4-game win streak.
This is the 2nd season in a row that the Tigers have kicked off the postseason against the A’s; the two teams are establishing a serious friendly rivalry (and it is friendly: unlike most rivalries it is difficult to think of any real contentious moments between the teams, unless you want to go back to 1972 when Bert Campaneris launched his bat at Lerrin Lagrow).
(Game 4 will be at 5:07 if the Rays and Red Sox are still going, or 7:07 if they are over).
(Game 5 will be at 9:07 if the Rays and Red Sox are still going, or 8:07 if they are over).
Series umpires: Gary Darling (crew chief), Tom Hallion, CB Bucknor, Mike DiMuro, Jim Reynolds, Mark Wegner. I don’t believe any of these umpires have ejected Jim Leyland or Miguel Cabrera this season.
TBS TV crew: Don Orsillo (voice of the Red Sox), Buck Martinez, and Dennis Eckersley. The Eck is a treat to listen to.
Detroit ALDS roster:
Notable omissions: Bruce Rondon (elbow soreness), Phil Coke (Phil Cokeness), Matt Tuiasosopo.
Jim Leyland said he will be making out his lineup using “some statistical analysis, some guy feeling, a combination of those things.” We’ll leave it to our clever readers to figure out which move is which.
During the Tampa Bay-Texas Game 163 event, there was much clucking of tongues by the broadcast crew about Texas having Nelson Cruz back from his 50-game suspension. The home audience had no such qualms, and gave him a standing ovation. I expect there will be a bit of chatter when Jhonny Peralta first enters the series, and I think for the fans it will be a non-event. It would probably be fitting if he is brought in to face Big Bart Colon, who quietly sat out 50 games last season for a testosterone violation.
While the Tigers ended the season with a lull, the A’s went out with guns blazing. They won 7 of their last 10, but it’s the manner in which they did it that catches the eye. Not known as an offensive power, they put up 72 runs over their last 10 games, including a four-game sweep of Minnesota in which they scored 8, 11, 9, and 11. Yes, it’s Minnesota–who went on to play Detroit and held them to 3, 4, and 1. Luckily, there is no momentum when it comes to the postseason.
Oakland won the season series between the two teams 4-3, and took 3 out of 4 in Detroit in August. Here are the box scores for the season series for those who are interested:
About that stadium. O.co Coliseum–which has to be the worst-named stadium in baseball–is the white elephant of stadiums. It is unique in having an enormous foul territory, and, mysteriously, seems either impossible or reasonable to hit a ball out of, depending on…well, something, who knows. I’ve seen a lot of games in this stadium, under its previous, more mellifluous names. Back in the day one had a very pleasant view of sunset against the Oakland hills until Al Davis built “Mount Davis” in centerfield (an addition for extra football seating), which has all the charm of…well, of Al Davis. The A’s have gotten their revenge by playing into October on a regular basis, which means the Raiders have to play on dirt (O.co remains the only multi-use football-baseball stadium).
The best part about the stadium though is that the bullpens are on the field, down the right field and left field foul lines, and the seats behind the bullpen areas are some of the best inexpensive seats in all of baseball. It is a very different thing watching these guys from, say, 20 feet away, and you notice all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise (Al Alburquerque has an incredibly upright posture). Who knows when they will finally get a new stadium: currently they are in the middle of a lawsuit against MLB to get a San Jose stadium (San Jose is technically San Francisco Giants territory; depending who you listen to this lawsuit will amount to nothing, or threaten the whole MLB antitrust exemption).
Just for fun, I’ll throw this in in case anyone wants to look back and see what ESPN’s predictions were before the season started. The Tigers were the AL favorites to win the World Series; the overwhelming NL favorites were the Nationals (oops).
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Alex Avila. Let’s call it a gut feeling.
Today’s Postseason Opening Day Lineup: