Marlins' sweep of the Tigers tells us little about postseason chances

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, it looked awful, and so did the Tigers' lineup. But read too much into the series at your own peril

"Could this series have gone any worse for the Tigers?" a fellow baseball writer asked me this afternoon while the Tigers were in the midst of being no-hit by the Marlins.

Yep.

It could have gone a lot worse.

One injury could have ruined the entire weekend. Fortunately that didn't happen.

Not to take anything away from the Marlins, but you have to look at the series from the perspective of the Tigers to fully understand what happened this weekend.

What the Marlins really wanted was to win a few games and hold their heads high heading into the offseason and maybe to leave a good impression that might help them to keep their major-league jobs in 2014.

From Detroit's point of view, this could almost be considered like a spring training game late in the season. What the Tigers wanted was to stay healthy as they get ready for the "real" season to start. An interleague series on the road, without the designated hitter, after clinching the division title, could hardly mean less. They had nothing to play for. Sure, you could say entering Friday's game they had an opportunity to improve in the AL standings. By Saturday, they were locked into the third-best record among AL division winners. They were going to start the ALDS on the road at Oakland.

At that point, literally the only bad thing that could happen to them would be losing a key contributor to injury ahead of the postseason.

Sunday's lineup confirmed those suspicions. No Austin Jackson, no Torii Hunter, no Miguel Cabrera, no Victor Martinez, two plate appearances by Prince Fielder, only a pinch hit by Alex Avila. These were not your postseason Tigers, this was the B team playing out the string. The fact that Justin Verlander remained on the mound for six innings almost astounds

So you had one team trying hard to win, and the other team just getting ready for the Division Series.

Maybe the Tigers should have won a game or two anyway. Probably. I can see that argument. But to pretend this particular series has any predictive value into what will happen next week, that is a platform that I cannot get on board with.

This is what the Tigers did in September: Won a series at Minnesota, won a series vs. Chicago, won a series vs. Seattle, won a series vs. the Royals, won a series at Chicago. That's their last five series before Miami. Were they really expected to sweep all those teams, was winning all those series actually not acceptable to people? Just  a week ago, they hung 19 runs on the White Sox across two games.

Would you feel better if the Tigers were red hot? Probably.  The Indians are. They will have won 10 consecutive games to clinch their Wild Card spot. I'm reminded of the Rays in 2011. They won five in a row to catch the Red Sox from behind in one of the most exciting regular-season finishes of recent memory. They tagged the Rangers, 9-0, in the first game of the Division Series -- then lost the next three games to get bounced from the playoffs. What about the 2009 Twins, who went 17-4 down the stretch to catch the Tigers, only to be swept in the Division Series by the Yankees. Or the 2006 Tigers, who handed the Twins the division title only to advance to the World Series?

The point is, red-hot teams can cool off pretty quick, and cool teams can heat up pretty fast, too.

The Tigers have the best rotation in the postseason -- and no member of the postseason rotation allowed a run to the Marlins. The Tigers were one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball in the regular season. More likely than not, Detroit will bounce back to form when they take the field in Oakland on Friday.

Don't let a meaningless series in Miami distract you from that point.

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