Will Tigers turn sweep into momentum?
SEP 03, 2012 12:59a ET
But how much does it really mean at this point?
"We feel like we made this statement last time, and obviously we didn’t continue to play great," Verlander said. "I think we just need to maintain the intensity we had this series. I think guys showed that our ability to play clutch is really good.
"We had guys that put up great at-bats, guys that pitched extremely well. I think we just need to realize we need to take that intensity into every game."
Verlander is referring to the last time the White Sox came to town. The Tigers swept them in a three-game home series July 20-22 to take a one-game lead in the Central Division. They then promptly went out and dropped six of their next eight games to fall back into second place, where they have been stuck until this weekend.
Since then, it's been two steps forward, one step back as it seemed that every time the White Sox lost, the Tigers did not take advantage. Then when the Tigers lost, the White Sox were able to pick up a game here and there.
However, it's always a good thing to beat the team you're chasing in head-to-head games. After the weekend sweep, the Tigers improved to 10-4 against the White Sox with four games left to play against them. Those four games are in Chicago starting a week from Monday.
"We're tied right now," said Delmon Young, who had the tie-breaking three-run home run off Chris Sale in the sixth inning. "We've got a four-game set with them, but we've got a series with Cleveland and Anaheim before we get there, so we've got to play good baseball before we show up to Chicago."
The Tigers and White Sox are both 72-61 with 29 games to play. Of those 29, the Tigers have 23 left in the Central Division. Seven of those are against the Kansas City Royals, the team that swept the Tigers before they returned home to sweep the White Sox. Overall, the Tigers are 29-20 within the division.
Before the series with the White Sox started when they were three games back, manager Jim Leyland stressed that it would not be "the end of the world" if they didn't win the series.
But he'll definitely take the sweep.
"I don't think it was the most important thing to get three. It would not have been good to lose three," Leyland said. "This wasn't the Super Bowl today, this was a game. We had a good weekend, you've got to enjoy it but in about 12 hours we've got the Cleveland Indians coming in here."
While other people expected the White Sox to falter at some point during the season, Leyland made sure his team wasn't adopting that attitude and even a sweep wasn't going to change his mind.
"We just beat a very good team, a team that's been in first place for most of the year," Leyland said. "It's gonna be hard to take that away from them. They're good and they've answered every bell so far. We just gotta play baseball and continue to enjoy it and have fun playing the game and be ready to play every day. If we do that, however it plays out, it plays out."
If the Tigers get the kind of starting pitching they got against the White Sox, it should play out in their favor. Combined, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Verlander allowed a total of three earned runs in the three-game series.
A.J. Pierzynski, who exchanged words with Verlander during Sunday night's game, was 0-for-3 against Verlander with two strikeouts and 0-for-3 against Scherzer.
"The way Scherzer and Verlander pitched the last couple nights makes it tough on anybody," Pierzynski said. "You could throw the ’27 Yankees out there and they’re going to get them out."
Scherzer and Verlander might not be able to pitch that way every time out, but now that it's September, they're definitely going to try.
"You can’t say you’re going to take a playoff-type intensity into every game of the season," Verlander said. "That’s not possible. But coming down to this time of year, there’s no reason to leave anything out there. We’ve got to find a way."
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