By Jack Mattern
The month of October holds a special place in my heart. It’s not because of Halloween, changing leaves, or even pumpkin spice-infused everything. October means one thing to me: playoff baseball.
The Detroit Tigers won the American League’s Central Division for the fourth year in a row, to nobody’s surprise. However, do they have what it takes to make it past the A.L. East-winning Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division series?
Yes. Yes they do.
The Tigers’ starting pitchers are supreme, compared to the Orioles’. They boast the last three Cy Young Award winners, along with a now-veteran Rick Porcello, who has matured into the outstanding pitcher they’ve always envisioned. Yes, September was not a good month for him, but look for a turnaround against the Orioles, assuming the series even makes it to a fourth game, which is when he is scheduled to pitch.
The Orioles’ bullpen, especially in the late innings, has the advantage over the Tigers’ cast of panic-inducing relievers. Led by closer Zach Britton, if the O’s have a lead in the late innings, they’re likely to hold onto it.
The infield for the Tigers, while maybe not as good defensively as some would like, has the ability to win this series on its own with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and rookie slugger Nick Castellanos. Normally, the Orioles would be able to counter with Chris Davis and Manny Machado, but Davis is currently suspended and Machado is hurt.
The outfield advantage goes to the O’s. They not only are outstanding defensively, but perennial all-star Adam Jones, along with veteran Nick Markakis, should present Tigers pitchers with quite the challenge. However, don’t count out the likes of sluggers Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez, along with the speedy Rajai Davis for the Tigers.
As far as catchers go, Alex Avila is perhaps the most important factor on this Tigers team if they hope to win in October. His game-calling skills are second to none, and he has a knack for getting big hits late in games.
The closest battle is at the designated-hitter position. MVP candidate Victor Martinez is the most important hitter for the Tigers. He protects Miguel Cabrera in the lineup, and is protected by breakout sensation J.D. Martinez. This means that he is likely to get a lot of pitches he likes, and expect him to do something with them. In fact, he hit a homerun in game one last night.
On the Orioles’ side is renown slugger and Tiger-killer Nelson Cruz, who also homered in game one, as he has so often against the Tigers in his career. He will need to be held at bay, if the Tigers hope to win this series.
Overall, it’s just not likely that good defense, a great bullpen and decent starting pitching will win the ALDS for the Orioles. The Tigers’ offense is too high-powered and their starting pitchers are too dominating to lose this series. Plus, they have won every ALDS they’ve been in since their resurgence in 2006.
Yes, the Tigers lost game one in horrendous fashion, and game two in heartbreaking fashion earlier today, both thanks to horrible bullpen pitching, but my bet is that they will use those games as fuel to their burning passion for the game of baseball and pull out a series win.
My prediction: Tigers win in five games.
Photo via MLive.com