The Tigers are not only in the playoffs, they're winning games in the playoffs. This is kind of fun, isn't it?
Al Alburquerque kissed the ball. Josh Reddick didn't like it. Who cares? Naturally it wouldn't be a playoff series without a controversy. While some posit the umpires and their strike zones are not consistent, that's not nearly as fun. Instead, Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick didn't like the reaction of Alburquerque, who fielded then promptly kissed the ball for Oakland's final out of the game. He didn't appreciate it, thinks it's immature and says it has no place in the game. It surely would have been better if he'd had no comment. Instead, he had a comment, and now everybody's going to have to talk about it.
Al-Al kissed the ball. So what? Some players point to the sky, some scream in excitement, some flail about like fools. Al kissed the ball. That was probably the biggest out he's gotten in his life. He's allowed to show a little emotion. It's not like he pointed at Reddick and laughed like Nelson on the Simpsons. Now that would have been disrespectful. I don't want to watch a game where players aren't allowed to call emotion. It's called football, and it's boring.
The funny thing about scripts is how often the actors improvise. The A's were deeper. They had superior defense. They were red hot, coming back to win the A.L. West. The A.L. West, you'll recall, is vastly superior to the A.L. Central, so it follows the teams in the West must be, too.
Yet there was gaffe after miscue, allowing the Tigers to score extra runs. There was Tigers manager Jim Leyland making four substitutions to his lineup during the game and getting the most out of his bench. Not only did Don Kelly hit the walk-off sacrifice, he also scored a run Sunday. There was the A's bullpen giving up four runs and handing back an eight-innings lead. There was Oakland outfielder CoCo Crisp, dropping a ball and allowing two runs to score. It's not that the Tigers are not always pretty in the field, but in watching the series you'd have a hard time remembering which team brought cement gloves and which team played superior defense.
The funny thing about so much of the analysis out there, at least as it pertains to the Tigers, is how often it doesn't come to pass. (He says, hoping the Tigers do not make a sudden reversal in the coming days.) It's easy to get so caught up in the storylines that you lose the truth and overstate the differences.
But at least one storyline held: Justin Verlander is still awesome. Seven innings, three hits, one run allowed and 11 strikeouts. It's not hard to argue the reigning Cy Young and MVP pitched his best postseason game yet. The regular season is great. It's the big sample. But reputations are truly made in the postseason -- Reggie Jackson wasn't called Mr. October for nothing -- and Verlander seems to answer the call better each time out.
The Tigers have gotten contributions from all over the roster. Quintin Berry, a career minor leaguer, started in the team's first postseason game in his first major league season. He had two hits Saturday. Alex Avila had a home run. Kelly had a run and RBI; Jhonny Peralta two hits, Delmon Young a hit and RBI. Andy Dirks hit in each game. Joaquin Benoit may have stumbled Sunday but he pitched a relatively calm scoreless eighth Saturday. And, of course, Alburquerque came up with a big out. One thing you can say about Leyland, he knows his roster and he deploys it well.
The Tigers are in a wonderful place. Up 2-0 in the series, all they have to do is win a game in Oakland. They'll send Anibal Sanchez and if necessary Max Scherzer and Verlander to the mound as starting pitchers. In Oakland earlier this year, Detroit went 2-2. The Tigers won the season series, 4-3, and you push that to 6-3 when you include the two ALDS games so far. The Tigers clearly have the ability to finish the series off.
As David Tokarz has said more than once in our comments and on Twitter, no hubris. Do not taunt the baseball gods here. Do not lose focus. The Tigers need to finish things as quickly as possible, before the A's players can manufacture any reason to believe they'll make a series out of this.
Baseball gods willing, potential ALCS tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Tuesday at Tigers.com or by calling 1-866-66-TIGER. They will not be available at the box office, the Tigers say.