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Category: Sports Published on Monday, 15 October 2012 17:31 Written by Leland Stein, III
Pic: Doug Fister has been clutch for the Tigers. – Dan Graschuck photo
This is what all the overly giddy Detroit Tigers fans have wanted, a chance at World Series glory. However, as the Tigers hold a commanding lead over the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series (ALCS), the players and most baseball people know the deal is not sealed until the Tigers get the final 27 outs in a fourth-game of the ALCS.
After coming up short in the 2011 ALCS versus the Texas Rangers; no matter, because when a team gets that close most fans begin to hope, dream or expect that the 2012 Tigers could or would go one step further.
The fuel that has carried the Tigers to a late season comeback that has seen them overtake the Chicago White Sox -- win a fifth game gem Justin Verlander tossed in the deciding AL Division Series against the red-hot Oakland A’s leading the Tigers to a second straight ALCS, and, now the Motown Tigers cats find themselves within inches of a return to the World Series -- is the starting pitching.
Dominant starting pitching from ace Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer has the Bengals on the verge of all’s dreams.
It has been a long and grinding climb for the Tigers, who entered July with a losing record. They were 3 1/2 games back at the All-Star break but went on a timely winning binge that saw the team win 13 of 15 games.
That’s when Tigers President and GM David Dombrowski worked his magic trading perceived top pitching prospect to Miami for starter Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante, a trade that addressed two important needs.
Catcher Gerald Laird told reporters after the Sanchez signing: “We're going for it. Dave's always been known for getting big pieces, and he's showing it again this year."
With the blessing of owner Mike Ilitch, Dombrowski, has made noteworthy moves that has energized the Tigers.. Sanchez (in July), Fister in 2011 and Scherzer a wintertime trade acquisition before the 2010 season.
"When I got traded over here," Fister said, "I walked in the door and instantly guys were screaming and yelling or hugging me from every which direction. It was a very warm welcome, and I assure you Anibal got the same treatment."
After coming to Detroit in 2011 Fister went 10-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 14 outings that included wins in each round of the playoff's first two rounds. Meanwhile, Sanchez struggled in three of his first four starts with Detroit, but there was also a good reason for having a lot on his mind -- he changed teams just as his wife was about to give birth to a baby girl. In his last 10 regular season and playoff starts, however, he has a 2.00 ERA in 67 2/3 innings.
"We look for good pitchers that our scouts recommend," Dombrowski said. "They go out, they scout and they do a very thorough job in preparation of doing so. So far our pitching additions have worked out in our favor, and, it is showing in these playoffs.”
When the Tigers took a commanding 2-0 lead winning both games in New York, it was Fister and Sanchez that added to a starting rotation that had not allowed an earned run in 29 consecutive innings, a streak extended by the seven shutout frames from Sanchez in Game 2.
With closer Jose Valverde in the toilet, having blown his last two save opportunities, against the A’s and then the Yankees, the starting the rotation has had to carry the day, with a 0.94 ERA overall in seven postseason games.
The Tigers very pitching talented are pitching to their lofty potential at the right time of year. It's not over, but it's going to take the Yankees breaking up this stretch of starting pitching -- not once, but four times in five games.
"The thing is, we knew with our rotation, if we're able to get in, we knew we could do some damage," catcher Alex Avila said. "We have guys that can strike guys out, which is big in the playoffs."
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