Did the Detroit Tigers' 2007 season effectively end at 10:45 p.m. EST last night, when Casey Blake's fly ball landed in the left field stands? That, my friends, is the question to ponder. Even the most optimistic Tigers fan might have difficulty arguing that their team can still make the playoffs without creating some labyrinthine scenario of probability that may or may not involve Superman flying around the Earth at super-speed to make it rotate in the opposite direction, which would, of course, turn back time.
More important than what the fans might think, however, is what the players think. We should find out tonight if the Tigers feel like they're still in a playoff race. If they come out and play like a team that kissed its season goodbye last night, that's probably an indication that they think the remaining 11 games are a lost cause. That would be extremely disappointing, however, given that the Tigers are still mathematically in play for the post-season.
Detroit certainly has a good chance of winning tonight, with their best starting pitcher on the mound. Justin Verlander has been fantastic in his last four starts, winning each one of them and giving up only three runs in 28 2/3 innings. He's also racked up 26 strikeouts in that span, while walking only six batters.
But here's the thing: Verlander hasn't pitched that well against Cleveland. This season, he has a 1-2 record and 7.36 ERA in four starts versus the Indians. For his career, his record is 3-4 with a 6.31 ERA. And the last time he faced the Tribe, they mashed him for seven runs and 10 hits in four innings.
On the other side, Jake Westbrook is winless in his past three starts. Last time out, against the White Sox, he gave up four runs (and two homers) in six innings. Before then, however, he'd been pitching pretty well. And that includes shutting out the Tigers over eight innings three weeks ago at Comerica Park. In his only other start against Detroit this season, he was slammed for five runs (and 10 hits) in six innings. So what will we see tonight?