Only a mere 12 months ago Texas was in the World Series where they came up sort versus the San Francisco Giants. Over the next eight days, they have a chance to return to the showcase of baseball’s finest. In their way stand the Detroit Tigers, who defeated the New York Yankees in five games following their first division title since 1987.
Both of these teams are easy to get behind. One team advances, the other will have to spend the winter waiting for their next chance.
The MLB postseason is down to its final four and these two teams could be matching up for a classic.
When Justin Verlander’s Game 1 start vs. the Yankees got postponed after he only threw one inning, it led many Tigers fans to fear that they could lose not having their ace available to pitch in two full games. It turned out, the Tigers did not need Verlander to beat New York and, despite the fact Detroit just finished off the Yankees Thursday night, they will get to use the best pitcher in the world for Game 1 Saturday night. And it will be the fifth day since his Game 3 start, meaning it’s back to routine for Verlander.
Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA) finished the season as the American League leader in Wins (24), Earn Run Average (2.40), Walks and Hits Per Innings Pitched (0.920) and is a lock to win the league’s Cy Young Award. In a seven game series, Verlander will most likely get to pitch twice, which could be just the solution for one of the most dynamic offenses in the league.
Josh Hamilton (.298/.346/.536, 25HR, 94RBI), Adrian Beltre (.296/.331/.561, 32HR, 105RBI), Ian Kinsler (32HR, 30SB, 121Runs), Nelson Cruz (29HR, 87RBI), Michael Young (.338/.380/.474 106RBI) and Mike Napoli (.320/.414/.631, 30HR, 75RBI) are the six most dangerous weapons in the Texas line-up, which is not exactly rounded out by a cast of scrubs either.
Verlander is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three career starts in Texas. However, one of his five losses this season came in his only start against Texas this season, as the Rangers defeated the Tigers 2-0 back in April despite Verlander pitching a complete game.
Matching up against Verlander will be “The Straight-Edge Southpaw”, C.J. Wilson who, despite winning 16 games in the regular season, was roughed up by the Tampa Bay Rays in Texas’s only loss of the ALDS, giving up eight runs (six earned) over five innings. He will undoubtedly be looking to bounce back. He more than has the ability to do so.
The Tigers offense, while not quite on par with the Rangers, features AL Batting Champion Miguel Cabrera (.344/.448/.586, 30HR, 105RBI), Victor Martinez (.330/.380/.470, 103RBI), and a very game Jhonny Peralta (.299/.345/.478, 21HR, 86RBI), and will be going up against a surprisingly good Rangers rotation. Although, Tampa does not have the offensive ability of the Tigers’ line-up, Texas was able to dispatch them without too much issue.
Much of that can be attributed to a very effective bullpen with Darren Oliver, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and baseball’s best sideburns in Koji Uehara. This group ensures that should a game come down to the bullpen, the Rangers hold the advantage over every team in baseball.
Key to this series may be Delmon Young’s health. Young is listed as day-to-day and it is unsure as to weather or not he will be available for the Tigers line-up.
While the Rangers hold the clear advantage in their offense and bullpen, the Tigers have Verlander and Doug Fister. Fister could well be the deciding factor in the series. Since joining the Tigers, he went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA. That is, until the ALDS vs. the Yankees where he went 1-1 with an astronomical 6.52 ERA. While two games is the very definition of “small sample size”, Detroit can not afford for Fister’s dominance to come to an end. Beyond CC Sabathia, the Yankee’s pitching was a mess heading into the playoffs. Texas, has one of the most underrated and consistent rotations in all of baseball. For Detroit, the Rangers are much more dangerous than the Bronx Bombers.
So what does this all mean?
The Tigers were in the World Series five years ago versus the Cardinals (a return match is possible) and that team was not as good as the 2011 Tigers. That being said, outside of Verlander, the Rangers are superior in every category. Can Verlander and Fister provide a one-two punch like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did a decade ago for the Arizona Diamondbacks? You only need to win four games and those two will start in four games should the series require seven. Not to mention Max Scherzer and Rick Prcello are both quite capable of winning games.
I don’t see Detroit doing it. Fister has been playing over his head for the second half of 2011 and I really see CJ Wilson beating Verlander in Game 1 (not Game 5), possibly in a similar situation as Carpenter bested Halladay. Wilson will not be denied again and neither will the Rangers.
While reality often does not reflect theory, on paper the Rangers are the best team left in the playoffs and they should be able to best the Mo-Town Machine.
ALCS Prediction: Texas in 6 games
Detroit Tigers v Texas Rangers ALCS TV Schedule and Pitching Matchups
ALCS TV Schedule
- TV Network: FOX
- Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET @ Texas
- Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET @ Texas
- Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET @ Detroit
- Game 4: Wednesday Oct. 12 at 4:00 p.m. ET @ Detroit
- Game 5: Thursday Oct. 13 at 4:00 p.m. ET @ Detroit
- Game 6: Saturday Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET @ Texas
- Game 7: Sunday Oct. 16 at 7:45 p.m. ET @ Texas
ALCS Pitching Matchups
- Game 1: Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40) vs. CJ Wilson (16-7, 2.94)
- Game 2: Max Scherzer(15-9, 4.43) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)
- Game 3 (probable): Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83) vs. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40
- Game 4 (probable): Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75) vs. Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39)
- Game 5 (probable): Justin Verlander (16-12, 2.82) vs. CJ Wilson (16-7, 2.94)
- Game 6 (probable): Max Scherzer(15-9, 4.43) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)
- Game 7 (probable): Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83) vs. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40)