The Tigers aren’t making this more complicated than it needs to be.
“They won at home, and now we need to win at home,” Game 3 starter Anibal Sanchez said Friday afternoon. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
They’ve heard the stats — only one team in five manages to win the World Series after falling behind 2-0 — but that’s not what they are talking about. Jim Leyland is posing it more in terms of a pennant race, where the Tigers have finished strongly the last two seasons.
“I look at it as being two games back with five games to go,” he said. “The good news is that we are playing the team we need to catch.”
While many fans have written off the Tigers after two sluggish games, especially with the similarities to 2006 both so fresh and painful, this isn’t the first time that they’ve seemed to be out on their feet. There was early June, when the Tigers trailed Chicago by six games, were still behind Cleveland and were fighting off the lowly Royals for third place.
There was the late-August sweep in Kansas City that dropped the Tigers three games behind, and the make-up game loss in Chicago that put it back to three games on Sept. 17.
In the last homestand of the year, there was the doubleheader sweep by Minnesota on a day where every Tigers fan thought they would be in the first place by nightfall. After all that, though, the Tigers won eight of their last 10 games as the White Sox collapsed, and Detroit ended up winning the division by three games.
Looking back, even the postseason has served up moments of despair, mainly thanks to Jose Valverde. You couldn’t have gotten a wooden nickel for the Tigers’ chances after The Big Potato blew Game 4 against Oakland, and things were just as gloomy after his meltdown in Game 1 against New York.
That doesn’t mean the Tigers are guaranteed to come back again, nor does it mean the team is taking their current predicament lightly. It just means they are far from giving up hope, especially given their usual strong play at Comerica Park.
“This is a lot of pressure, but we have to embrace that,” Leyland said. “We just have to concentrate and relax.”
That last word might be the key to Detroit’s chances. The Tigers have struggled badly at the plate against a pair of average lefthanded pitchers, just as they did all season. They will be facing righthanders in the next two games, but as Delmon Young pointed out after Game 2, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain are hardly run-of-the-mill pitchers.
Detroit, though, has the offense to beat almost any righthanded pitcher in baseball — luckily, they don’t have to face Justin Verlander — as long as they don’t start pressing at the plate.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well the first two games,” Austin Jackson said. “Give their pitchers credit, but we aren’t getting anything to fall in. We have to keep that up.”
That, though, will all have to wait for Saturday night. At the moment, the Tigers have one thing on their minds — sleep.
“We got in at 6 or 7 in the morning,” Alex Avila said. “I’m exhausted.”
FISTER BEING TESTED
Even though Doug Fister showed no ill effects from Thursday’s line drive off the back of his head, the Tigers planned to have precautionary tests run on Friday.
“He’s going to be checked out today,” Leyland said. “I talked to him on the plane, and he was sore, but he didn’t have any loss of memory. We’re just getting him checked.”