illustrations by Samara Pearlstein
When your team reaches the postseason, it is a time of great excitement. Just making the postseason is not the big Win, of course, but it is the first step along the way, and it signifies a year in which at least some things got done properly. The players feel good and you get to watch them feeling good, usually with goggles and plastic sheeting and carbonated alcohol. Your artificially selected tribe has triumphed in some small way, and as your reward, you get to care about baseball for just a little bit longer.
And hey, we’re not just talking about the postseason here– the Tigers won the division! All the other players on all the other AL Central teams must spend the winter on call, catering to the needs and whims of various Tigers, whether that be snow shoveling duties (for that one insane Tiger who lives in the midwest year-round [we still have one of those, right?]) or babysitting duties or taking Astro for really long walks and scooping up all his leavings when David Price is just too dang tired and also it is rainy outside. That is why it is such a big deal, winning the division.
Here is the problem: the Tigers, for much of this year, have just not been that good a baseball team. Obviously they have very good parts, and they have had very good stretches, and these things combined to get them into October employment. But anyone who has watched the team consistently this season has seen that their Dark Side is not so much a couplefew aberrations and bad luck moments, but is instead a constant shadowy companion, always almost perfectly in lockstep with the good bits of the team, ready to leap to the fore at the slightest stumble or hesitation.
And now that the Tigers are in the postseason, without the comforting buffer zone of large sample sizes, this is becoming incredibly obvious and visible to everyone– to casual fans, to normally oblivious national TV broadcasters, to that super annoying dude in your office who like really does not follow baseball but every year come October starts behaving as if he is practically a beat reporter who’s been watching games all year long and pronounces Nick Castellanos’ name some wild kind of inaccurate way.
There have been good things. Miguel Cabrera is Miguel Cabrera. Victor Martinez has been hot. JD Martinez has been the pleasantest surprise named JD this team has ever known. These cats are off and running. Certain other members of the team are having a, uh, let us say harder time keeping up.
And meanwhile, out in the bullpen…
That, quite plainly, is a problem.
Sunday the Tigers will either go on, or they will not. They will stand a chance of advancing to the next stage of ‘won some stuff that’s not the big Win but is still pretty nice’ victory, or they will not. The dual Martinez threat will lead the offense to spectacular victory, or Joba Chamberlain will lose a finger playing with explosives. Comedy or tragedy. Playoff baseball.
illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Onwards to the ALCS.
illustrations by Samara Pearlstein
You all know this story already. The Tigers attempted to kill us all on Sunday. They played as ridiculous a game as they could possibly play. It came down to the very last at-bats of the very last inning. With one out and the bases loaded, the big cats already stashed safely on first and second, Don Kelly came up. And what did he do?
He did not hit a towering grand slam of a home run into the center field foliage. He did not ground into a double play. He did no more and no less than what he absolutely needed to do, which was simply hit a ball far enough to score the cat on third. Not flashy. Not dramatic. Just Don Kelly– just baseball.
Also this happened: for those two of you who somehow didn’t see it/haven’t heard about it yet, AlAl fielded a huge out, and kissed the ball before tossing it to first. Was it a little hot-dog-ish? Sure. Was it a little rude? Sure. Was it premeditated? Absolutely not. Was it hilarious and sort of endearing? You bet your tiger-striped tail it was.
I know the A’s are all surly about it, but quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Game 1 was nice too.
Now, given the way the Tigers played going into the postseason, I had low expectations. I honestly had a hard time envisioning them making it out of the first round. Yet here we are, up 2-0, needing to win just one more game out of the coming three. Of course, all three are in Oakland, and it is not at all out of the realm of possibility for the Tigers to completely muck that up, especially as Verlander and Mister Fister have already pitched, and as we all know, things get a bit thin behind them in the rotation. But this is already so much better than I had dared to dream.
I mean, Don Kelly, you guys. The Tigers are heading west in this best of all possible positions thanks to Don Kelly. Roll that one around in your mind for a while.
illustration by Samara Pearlstein
There, there, Rick Porcello. It’s ok.
Did last night’s game start to lose cohesion while you were on the mound? Sure. Four runs in six innings, that’s not great. I mean, you hit Jorge Posada, then gave up hits to Russell Martin and Derek Jeter. You don’t want to let Jeter start the scoring, FredFred. It gets the Yankee fans too excited; it’s almost indecent. Think of the children.
In the next inning, nobody scored, but you hit Mark Teixeira. I don’t object on principle, mind you– hit Teixeira as much as you want on your own time, or in nominal garbage time during the regular season. Not a great thing to be hitting dudes left and right during the playoffs, though. I’m not trying to make you feel any worse than you already do, FredFred. I’m just saying.
Victor homered and it started to seem like things might be OK. But that’s where you started to lose it. Martin singled, again. Gardner singled. Jeter did a bunt-thing. Then Curtis Granderson hit an RBI double, striking at the very heart of Tigers fans everywhere. Then A-Rod hit a sac fly to score Jeter, which is also just disgusting. Think of the kittens, FredFred.
After that most of the damage can be attributed to the bullpen, and to the curious failure of the bats, but it was already too late. And it was your very first postseason appearance, FredFred– we know how you were SO looking forward to it.
BUT IT’S OK! We are here to tell you that the blame is not yours. You are the victim here, my kittenish friend. You are the victim of your own teammates, and a victim of the unimpeachable fact of Curtis Granderson’s awesomeness, and the latest in a long line of victims to the Yankee regime.
There there, Rick Porcello. Dry your tears, raise your head, and go help Paws turn Yankee Stadium into his own personal litter box.
illustrations by Samara Pearlstein
Win, but terrify everyone first.
It is difficult to discuss these last two games in any coherent way. We survived them, obviously, but now when I try to force my brain in that direction, it just starts gibbering and screaming nonwords into my skull. First there was the ASFDGLIJA; and then there was the GGGLARLIASLDFJK and then they all ASDL;KFJAS;DLKFJSWS!!!
It all started with the rainout, which was continued with the incredibly painful loss. Then Max Scherzer pitched so well for 6 innings, and the bullpen VERY NEARLY lost it, and Papa Grande threw ALL THE PITCHES but somehow the Tigers scraped through.
The game was briefly and horrifyingly prolonged when Alex Avila, pursuing a foul ball that should have been the last out of the game, slipped on the stupid Yankee Stadium on deck circle patch and fell down, missing the ball. Unlike Comerica or, say, Fenway Park– CIVILIZED ballparks– the on deck circles in New York are these rubbery Yankee logo’d things. When it rains, they get slick. Then they become HAZARDS and DANGERS and they should be BANNED because the Yankees are FILTHY BALLPARK CHEATERS.
Anyways, the Tigers got out of that one, but it should not have been quite so drama-laden. Death to the Yankee Stadium on deck circles. AS IF ALEX AVILA HAS NOT HAD TO DEAL WITH ENOUGH THIS SEASON.
Tonight Verlander was not at his sharpest (neither was Sabathia, who gave up the same number of runs but lasted only 5.1 innings to Verlander’s 8. Rain situations like the one that started this series ruin everything for everyone). The Yankees tied the game up in the top of the 7th. The crowd was stunned, appalled, filled with a sense of foreboding and dread.
But Delmon Young stepped up in the bottom of the inning and hit a ball over the wall, all YAY DETROIT and TAKE THAT YANKEES ON BEHALF OF MY TWINKIE SERVICE. If you were watching, you know what it was like. If you were not, I cannot describe to you the sense of relief this home run generated. The game was not yet over, but to get the lead back after everything had seemed to be slipping irrevocably away… holy cats.
And then there was Papa Grande, tired out after those many, many pitches in the previous night’s efforts. He threw a ball that almost murdered Derek Jeter in the head, but he recovered for the save and the Tigers win. He did not do much of a dance, but he did make a fancy upward motion with his arms that gestured to the sky and pulled his jersey out of his pants at the same time.
This is what I have been like while watching the games:
FredFred tomorrow. No matter what happens, remember: he’s still just a kitten. Be nice to him. Go Tigers.
photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
FSN is replaying the Tigers’ postseason victories on Mondays, and of course I watched it tonight. Game 2 of the ALDS, which, as we all know, the Tigers won in New York, 4-3.
I totally had forgotten some of this stuff, like when Morgan was insisting to Jon Miller that the Yankees didn’t count their season successful unless they won the World Series, while every other team just wanted to get there. Holy freakin’ cats Morgan, NO, I am pretty sure that most teams do not dearly wish to get to the World Series only to lose in some horrible embarrassing fashion once there. Pretty sure everyone wants to win the World Series. Small children and Tampa Bay Devil Rays do not dream of the bright lights and crushing shame of crumbling before the Yankees in October.
It is nice to know that my disgust for Joe Morgan remains as gloriously intact as ever even in the middle of the most barren stretch of the offseason.
After seeing this game, let me reiterate how much I do not want to see Gary Sheffield at first base. Granted, most of the plays he missed were either not REALLY his fault (error on the Jete) or else plays that, say, Shelton or Casey wouldn’t make anyways, BUT! totally plays that Carlos Pena would make. And I KNOW WE DON’T HAVE CARLOS PENA ANYMORE I KNOW THAT OK, but it’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing. If I am going to have to deal with a defensively inept player at first, I at least want it to be someone I like (Casey) or someone I am amused by in an “aww, lookit you, also please don’t procreate, ever” kind of way (Shelton). Not someone whose spleen I would like to see bloodily removed at midfield by Kyle Farnsworth in a bout of righteous anger.
Also I hate Johnny Damon so hard.
How hot was that play where Inge didn’t even see the ball until it was practically on top of him, and he still made a great play on it? Super freakin’ hot. I know I actually blathered about this at the time (‘tho you can’t see it because the archives are still in transit– soon, my patient little readerlings, soon), but it’s still SUCH a wonderfully understated play, the kind of quietly amazing thing that us mere mortals cannot do, and Brandon Inge CAN do.
Of course, this time around, it also set me and semi-roommate Derek off, attempting perhaps to recreate the heady feeling of being Joe Morgan and Jon Miller in the booth.
“He’s actually blind, he had no idea what was coming at him.”
“Right, but he knew it was SOMEthing! He was ready to field it.”
“It could’ve been anything.”
“Could’ve been Johnny Damon’s head, bouncing down the line.”
“But he was there, he was ready for it.”
“Actually, he plays by sense of smell.”
“Deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean baseball.”
The moral of the story is, NEVER WATCH A BASEBALL GAME WITH US.
Oh, and I just wanted to mention this. Posada ran into the railing and the Morgan/Miller genuismachine went on and on about how he maybe got a bruise from it or something. This is especially ridiculous to me because a) Posada showed no particular signs of being hurt, there was no need to talk about it for a good solid 5 minutes, and b) I just got through watching the Winter X Games (I know, I know, shut up), where people are HURLED THROUGH THE AIR, sometimes while attempting to ride 400 LB MACHINES, and sometimes they come CRASHING DOWN WITH THOSE MACHINES ON TOP OF SOME PART OF THEM, and these people more often than not GET UP AND WALK IT OFF. I love baseball, and I accept that it stops for rain and that hangnails are the end of the world sometimes, but really, come on now.
After the game: “How hard is it to do special things, when you are trying very hard to do special things?” That was our very own John Keating, to Marcus Thames. Because we are all 5 years old.
From this game we learned:
-The Moose, his bowels be loose.
-Brandon Inge is a superhuman.
-The people love Joel Zumaya.
-It is fun beating the Yankees in New York.