|Justin Verlander waves as he leaves game 5|
This 2011 ALCS is the most exciting series I have ever been truly emotionally invested in.
Every game has been right to the wire – regardless of the final score.
Every game has tested every facet of each component of both teams.
And as this ALCS series between the Tigers and the Texas Rangers sits 2-3 in favor of the lone star men, I think it interesting that Justin Verlander pitches a good game, but there were other heros that changed the momentum of the series back to the favor of the Tigers.
So far, the two biggest key points that have allowed Texas to squeak out one win more than the Detroiters has been one extra hit and a bit more depth in the bullpen.
Unfortunately that one extra bat of Texas has only recently been countered by Alex Avila – at when Alex hit a two run shot in Game 5 last night.
But not by Austin Jackson who just seems overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Jackson has just had a horrible series to date – with two errors that were costly fumbles on what seemed to be very makeable plays – standard fare for a major league centerfielder and surely for a player like Jackson who stunned us over and over again this season with over the shoulder basket catches at the wall time and time again.
As for Alex Avila, who continues to catch with excellence and throwing darts to second base to catch almost all runners – Alex is just plain wore out. Alex caught 141 regular season games this year, and the all star game, as well as a brutally tough ALDS series with the Yankees.
There was no break for Avila. He has been our iron horse.
Avila is spent and battered and bruised, like no other player on the squad.
Clearly the public perception is that Saturday night’s game 6 back in Arlington will be no more than a formality to usher the Rangers into the World Series at home.
But I have this feeling.
I have this feeling that during the course of the Tigers win in Game five, that the tides of momentum switched to our favor.
A natural cycle in the same inning – the sixth inning – the score then tied 2-2. The single by Raburn. The Double by Cabrera. The triple by Martinez. And the home run by Delmon Young.
Young raked two dingers for the night despite suffering an injury to his right oblique.
Cabrera’s shot hit third base on the second bounce to skip ever so prettily over Texas three bagger Adrian Beltre and gingerly rolling around in the left field corner. Beltre had shown up Cabrera in Game four by moonwalking his way backwards to third base for force on Cabrera as Miguel stood there stunned watching the idiocy.
And Martinez’s triple down the right field line was just as beautiful seeing the Texan right fielder Nelson Cruz – who had been knighted “Tiger Killer” in the ALCS so far - dive only to miss the ball which disappeared in the right field corner.
Each hit in the cycle was as meaningful as it was memorable.
Meaningful as life filled what was looking to be a dead dugout.
Meanwhile Texas looked … surprised … and worried.
So Tigers winning game six – Max Scherzer starting for the Tigers – winning is not unreasonable. Certainly it’s feasible.
It’s do or die and the rest of the baseball world has counted the Tigers out. So there is no pressure on the Tigers. Instead the pressure is now on Texas, who needs that one final win to seal this deal. The last win can be the hardest. And Texas knows that if they let this series get to a game seven – all bets are off.
Fister would then be on the mound for Detroit.
Texas would then press. Press at the plate. Press on the mound. Press in the field.
And the mere fact that Texas feels that pressure will indeed relax the Tigers.
Anything can still happen. This series is far from over. This series is not a done deal. Do not stick a fork in the Tigers, they aren’t done yet.
As I watched that third base shot hit by Miguel Cabrera bounce over the head of Beltre and into the left field corner, I felt reassured – like a signal that the storm beating down on the Tigers in this ALCS was now over.
I heard a voice in my head say “It will be alright”.
And you know what? I believe it.