Just like 2006, Tigers idle before World Series, and they're wary
Web linksBaseball blog: On-Base Perception
DETROIT -- The next few days might feel a bit familiar to Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
The Tigers will have to wait a while before starting the World Series. Detroit won the American League pennant Thursday, wrapping up a four-game sweep of the Yankees. Now the Tigers won't play again until Wednesday, when they open on the road against the winner of the National League Championship Series between St. Louis and San Francisco.
In 2006, Leyland's Tigers swept Oakland in the ALCS, finishing that series Oct. 14. The World Series didn't start until Oct. 21, and Detroit lost to St. Louis in five games.
"I do think the lull between our playoff and the World Series did work against us in 2006," Leyland said recently. "Now, that's not to take anything away from the St. Louis Cardinals. But all of a sudden, our emotion went from so high to just a blah . . . six days of staring at each other with really no action. That's hard."
The Tigers have workouts planned at Comerica Park from today through Monday. The big question is how the layoff will affect Detroit's sterling starting rotation, which has a 1.02 ERA in the 2012 postseason.
The Tigers breezed past the Yankees, with the starters allowing only two runs in 271/3 innings in the series. Justin Verlander has made three starts in the playoffs, allowing only two runs in 241/3 innings -- in the first inning of his first start and the ninth inning of his most recent start.
If the trend continues, Detroit should be very tough to beat, especially with an offense that finally broke out for eight runs in Game 4 against the Yankees.
Verlander was a rookie in 2006, and the team didn't make the playoffs again until last year, when the Tigers lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS. The ace righthander can appreciate the journey a bit more now than in '06.
"It's different because that seemed like it was easier. We were ahead all year," Verlander said. "You have more of an appreciation of how hard it is to get here."
The Tigers needed to overtake the Chicago White Sox late this season to win the AL Central title for a second straight year. Pitching has carried them in the postseason, with the exception of a couple of meltdowns by closer Jose Valverde.
The jovial Valverde allowed four runs in Game 1 of the ALCS, giving up two-run homers to Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibañez to tie the score, and hasn't pitched since. Lefthander Phil Coke saved the next two games.
Leyland has remained adamant that Detroit still might need Valverde to come through in a big spot.
"It's not only one guy . . . It takes everybody," Valverde said. "I'll be ready for the World Series."
Max Scherzer might not mind the layoff, either. The righthander's throwing shoulder acted up toward the end of the regular season. He started Game 4 of both the ALDS and ALCS, coming out in the sixth inning of each.
"Last year [in the playoffs], I really tried to relax and slow it down because of the situation, and that didn't work," Scherzer said. "This year, I was able to get pumped up in the right situations."
The pitching staff has performed so well that sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder haven't had to carry too much of the load. Cabrera, the AL Triple Crown winner, homered in the finale against the Yankees, but the Tigers have been able to win despite an offense that's been spotty at times.
"Fister and Scherzer have been dominating since the All-Star break. Then if you add that with Verlander, you've got three No. 1 starters there, and they're pitching like it," catcher Gerald Laird said. "That can be tough on any team, any series."