Thursday, July 16, 2009

Road to postseason now runs through Detroit

        The All-Star Game is over. The preliminaries and the posturing are past. Let the pennant race begin.
        This much can be said for certain: The Tigers have a shot, a real shot, at returning to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
        That fact has not gone unnoticed in Las Vegas where the odds against the first-place Tigers winning the American League pennant have dropped from 12-1 at the start of the season to 7-to-1. The odds against the Tigers winning the World Series  have dropped from 25-1 to 15-1.
        However, either is still a shaky bet.
        The Tigers’ track record after the All-Star break is hardly encouraging. Since 1988, the Tigers have only played better than .500 baseball after the mid-season interruption twice, in 1991 and 2000.
        But while he admittedly is at a loss to explain it, Jim Leyland doesn’t place much stock in that statistic.
        “In 2006, we lost five in a row at the end of the regular season, and when we got into the playoffs, we won seven in a row,” he pointed out.
        It is the way the Tigers have played, more often than not, when they have lost this year, that has their manager concerned.
        “We make too many quick outs and we don’t get enough quick outs -- and that’s a disaster,”  Leyland declared, summing up one of his team’s primary shortcomings.
        In Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Edwin Jackson demonstrated exactly what Leyland was talking about, retiring the three National Leaguers he faced with a total of just four pitches.
        Leyland would like to see all of the Tiger pitchers work that way.
        Understandably, the Tigers are looking forward to playing 41 of their remaining 75 games at home, beginning Tuesday night against Seattle. Right now, that, plus the presence of Justin Verlander and  Jackson at the front end of their starting rotation, may be the biggest single factors in their favor.
        So far this season, the Tigers are 27-13 at Comerica Park -- a pace guaranteed to put any team in the playoffs.
        “Nobody’s complaining but we had a grueling first half schedule with the travel,” Leyland said. “We were on the road more than anybody. That’s a grind.”
        The Tigers have weathered that storm. Their fate is in their hands, beginning this weekend at new Yankee Stadium. The road to the postseason in the AL Central now runs through Detroit.


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