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Keys to the Tigers winning the ALCS

Somehow, someway, the Tigers found a way to advance past the Bronx Bombers on Thursday night. Detroit was able to scrap and claw their way to an early 2-0 lead, only to hold onto it with a steady dose of timely pitching and the over-paid Yankees failing in the spotlight. As a Tigers fan, I am all too thankful having that series completed and be moving onto the next round.

The Tigers’ opponent in the ALCS, the Texas Rangers, have one of the more explosive offenses around. The main guys, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, can hit with the best of them. They also have a bunch of other guys who get it done. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to fear with this Texas team, but when you were previously dealing with Jeter-Granderson-Cano-ARod-Texiera, I’m ok about having to face these guys.

It’s important that Detroit keeps Texas’s lead off batters, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, off the base path. These two can hurt Detroit because the latter part of the lineup,  Hamilton, Beltre and Cruz, can go yard on any pitch. But, similar to the NY series, Detroit can limit these middle guys by not having any one on base when they come up to bat. The motto should be, “It’s ok to give up solo shots”. It’s not ok, however, to let the three run and let the grand slams happen.

Texas has  four pretty solid starting pitchers  (C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison), but no true ace. Everyone knows Detroit has theirs with Justin Verlander. Verlander gives Detroit (and their fans) a mental edge, in that he’s hands down the best pitcher, and we can expect a win when he pitches. For game #1, I like Detroit’s chances to take the early series lead with Verlander, forcing Texas to play from behind.  Verlander could be the difference maker in this series. He potentially could start three games in the series (1,4,7). Unlikely, though, because he’s never been a short rest pitcher. Detroit, however, has him as an option, Texas doesn’t.

Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera were disappointing against NY and should start to heat their bats facing the Texas pitchers. Similarly,  Austin Jackson and Jhonny Peralta need to find a rhythm to get the offense back. Detroit can hang with anybody when these guys are at their best.

Although I always hear complaints about him, Jim Leyland came up big when it mattered most. Leyland said “no go” to the ace Verlander in Game 5,  and instead let Doug Fister pitch perfect inning after perfect inning, holding the Yankees hitters down. Even with limited options, Jim Lelyand did a masterful job throwing together this Detroit lineup. For example, even with a disappointing Game 4, Leyland stuck with Don Kelly, and he delivered with a solo shot in the first inning of Game 5.  As a manager, that has to give you confidence knowing that your bench players will come up ready when their number’s called.

The Tigers aren’t looking to stop the celebration.

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