I heard during the Marlins-Phillies game today that a national weekly sports publication (it’s not hard to figure out which one) had a story about the 10 biggest baseball surprises of the year. I went to that publication’s web site and checked out the story for myself.
I was quite shocked to see the Detroit Tigers as No. 4. The Phillies’ second-half surge was number one followed by the Marlins’ season and the Dodgers’ back-to-back-to-back-to-back (I’m tired just typing it) home runs Monday was third. While the aforementioned achievements were impressive, the Tigers’ first postseason appearance since 1987, for me, was the biggest shock.
The White Sox and Indians seemed to be the two most talked about teams in the division not the Tigers. Did anyone have the Tigers making the playoffs?
While I was expecting manager Jim Leyland to turn things around in Motown, I wasn’t expecting it this soon in a division that had the defending World Champion Chicago White Sox.
Detroit came out and established itself early winning its first five games en route to a 16-9 April. The Tigers followed with 19 wins in May and 20 wins in June. Detroit went 62-29 in its first 81 games, a far cry from the 12 straight sub-500 seasons from 1994-2005.
The Tigers success can be credited to its strong pitching staff and an MLB best 3.74 team ERA. Kenny Rogers has anchored the staff with a 17-6 mark, one of four 13-game winners on the squad along with Justin Verlander (17-9), Jeremy Bonderman (13-8) and “Gum Time” Nate Robertson (13-12).
Offensively, Detroit showed to be a long ball threat entering Sunday’s action with 192 home runs, third in the AL, and had seven regular starters with 12 or more home runs on the season.
The Tigers secured their first postseason berth since 1987 in convincing fashion Sunday with an 11-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Detroit hit three home runs on the afternoon. Craig Monroe’s three-run shot in the second spark a nine-run inning. Verlander won his 17th and should be the AL Rookie of the Year favorite.
Currently, the Tigers own the majors best record at 94-62, more than double the wins from 2003 when they set an American League record for losses going 43-119. Detroit followed with a 72-90 mark in 2004 and went 71-91 last year.
Detroit still has the challenge of securing the AL Central and possibly the American League’s best record this week. The Tigers entertain Toronto and Kansas City in a pair of 3-game series. Minnesota trails Detroit by a 1 ½ games in the AL Central. New York is only a half-game behind in the race for the league’s best record at 93-62. Minnesota is at home for the remaining seven game-three versus the Royals and four against Chicago. New York finished its series against Tampa Monday before hosting Baltimore and Toronto to close out the season.
I would like to congratulate the Detroit Tigers players, organization and fans for reaching the postseason. Who knows what this squad can do in the postseason.