Why wait until Monday when I've got something to day right now?
- Verlander's 11 strikeouts in a winner-takes-all game was the most in postseason history. You can add a few extra words there if you want. Verlander's 11 strikeouts in a shutout winner-take-all game is the highest total; however, Cliff Lee also had 11 strikeouts in a winner-take-all game without throwing a shutout. In any case, Verlander. Dominant. Period.
The SFX Baseball Group added: This is the 16th time in postseason history a pitcher had 11 strikeouts and a shutout.
As long as we're talking historical perspective, parallels to a 1972 series became eerily clear these past two games. Chris Jaffe of Hardball Times wrote in a bit more depth about that year, when the Tigers and A's went to five games to decide the ALCS. In the fourth game of the series, the Tigers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to walk off with a 4-3 victory -- though in extra innings. In the fifth game, the A's bounced back to seal the series with a 2-1 win. Thankfully, as Jaffe pointed out in an e-mail to me this morning, "[T]his time the winning team didn't have its best player break his leg stealing home, like happened to Reggie Jackson 40 years ago on this day." So if you're looking for a bright side to Cabrera and Fielder combining to go 1-for-9 with an HBP, maybe that's it.
Presented with very little comment, Max Scherzer's goggles
That ranks up there with the windshield-wiper goggles as one of the best things ever. But since Max is much more likable, he rockets to No. 1 on my list.
Tigers' rotation ERA: 1.30
Tigers' bullpen ERA: 5.00
Jose Valverde's ERA: 16.20
The reason so many people believed Detroit might just be able to rebound from a mundane regular season to go deep in the playoffs was the strength of the rotation. That has proved to be true. The least effective starter for the Tigers in the series was Anibal Sanchez. He pitched into the seventh inning and allowed two runs. You're going to win a lot of ball games that way.
But the bullpen is frightening. Well, sorta. Benoit and Valverde had been shaky at times in the regular season, and now any of their errors are multiplied in import. You'd really like to see Jim Leyland lean a bit harder on Dotel and Al Alburquerque in leveraged situations. But he probably won't.
Tigers team average: .252
Tigers team OBP: .293
Tigers team SLG: .337
Those, you have to say, are not pretty. Oakland's pitching is good, and was ranked in ERA just behind Detroit's in the second half. But, really, the Tigers have to do better.
There are two ways to look at these batting stats.
The positive way: The Tigers won the series despite the leading hitters being a second baseman and a bench outfielder. The team's middle-of-the-order sluggers were quite a bit off their norms. That probably won't happen two series in a row. Oakland let the Tigers off the hook, the next team might not be so lucky.
The negative: Detroit struggled to score runs on the road in the regular season, and Fielder and Cabrera were not immune. Why should the Tigers suddenly become road warriors when they haven't been all year?
Oakland fans acquitted themselves quite well. When Alburquerque kissed the ball in Game 2, a couple A's took offense and the fans on both sides started bickering, the series took a bit of an ugly turn. That's unfortunate. The A's will never be the most popular team in baseball, and it's been a struggle for their fans in Oakland to watch as the owner tries to move the team to pretty much anywhere but Oakland. But the true fans of the organization have remained loyal even in the face of that adversity. Their numbers dwindled, but their exuberance remained. Yeah, I was as annoyed by the Bernie lean as the next guy. Yet you have to hand it to them for the way they stood by their team and were a loud, positive and raucous crowd throughout. That's just the way it should be.
That the fans chanted "Let's go Oak-land" even as the Tigers celebrated on the field speaks mountains about their commitment. That was actually a pretty special moment for them, despite the loss. I only hope their awful owner and the MLB realize that -- though I fear they don't really care.
Final thoughts on the series: In many ways, it went as expected. The Tigers stood on the shoulders of their pitching. Justin Verlander being able to make two starts ended up being the key to victory. While some story lines fell to the wayside, that played out exactly as everybody expected.
Enjoy Friday's baseball games. As a reward for surviving our own Game 5, we get to watch four team battling for two playoff spots in do-or-die situations. The drama is exhausting when it's your team, but kind of fun when it's somebody else's. Baltimore and New York battle at 5 p.m.
What's next? Detroit will either host the Orioles Saturday night, or they'll travel to New York Saturday night. We probably won't know until 8:30 - 9 p.m ET tonight which is the case.