Last night on "Baseball Tonight," Buck Showalter expressed his belief that the Detroit Tigers needed to win the AL Central before Sunday, so they wouldn't have to use Justin Verlander for the season finale.
The basis of Showalter's argument was that Verlander pitching on Sunday means he wouldn't be available to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series against C.C. Sabathia. Game 1 will be either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which schedule the New York Yankees choose.
Verlander would be able to get his customary four days of rest and pitch Game 2. But if the Yankees opt to begin the series on Wednesday, with a day off on Thursday, that would give the Game 1 pitcher a chance to start two games.
It's presumed that the Yankees would go for the longer series, allowing them to pitch Sabathia in Game 4, if needed, and avoid having to use Joba Chamberlain. But if they wanted to avoid facing Verlander twice, choosing the shorter series would take care of that.
(Many seem to believe the Yankees aren't looking at it that way. If they think pitching Sabathia twice gives them the best shot to win, that's what they'll do.)
So it's not like the Tigers don't already have enough pressure on them this weekend. They need to win two games to assure themselves the AL Central title. (I know many in Tiger Town think Zack Greinke is an automatic to beat the Twins tomorrow, which would reduce Detroit's burden to one, but if this season has taught us anything, it's that nothing has been that simple.) But should they have a bigger picture in mind?
Or is worrying about Sunday not even an issue? (In which case, the previous 270 words were a waste for both me and you. Thanks for reading!) Obviously, the Tigers have to concern themselves with making the playoffs first. Don't put the cart before the horse, as Jim Leyland might say.