The sky has fallen on the Detroit Tigers. In a matter of just a few days they’ve lost Anibal Sanchez, Joakim Soria, and now Justin Verlander to injury. More word will be out soon on the severity of Verlander’s right shoulder soreness, but given the power of momentum, good news isn’t expected. When it rains it pours, and a flooded Motor City needs to find a big squeegee right now.
How on Earth can the Tigers, what with their shamble of a bullpen, inconsistent offense, and sudden rash of injuries to what should be an elite starting rotation, win a World Series? Any talk of that now seems premature and foolish as Detroit no longer even leads the mediocre AL Central, having been passed up by the surging Kansas City Royals.
The Tigers might find themselves scrambling in late September just to grab a wild card. Or, more likely, they’ll find a way to win the division as they tend to do. Either way, the odds still favor the Tigers making yet another postseason appearance. But what can be expected of them once they get there?
It’s been hard to find the positives both on and off the field lately. But I’ve got some great news – I’ve got your squeegee right here! Actually two of them. Their names are David Price and Max Scherzer. Or should we call them Randy Johnson 2.0 and Curt Schilling-Lite?
What do most people remember from the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks? Chances are that your first thought from that legendary tilt is the bloop single off the bat of Luis Gonzalez against Mariano Rivera to walk-off with the World Series title in upset fashion.
What I remember was it seemed like the D’backs only had two pitchers for that entire series, Johnson and Schilling.
Over the course of the series this dynamic duo went 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA against the mighty Yankees, earning co-MVP honors along the way. However, those stats do not tell the entire story.
Schilling started and won Game 1 by throwing seven innings of one-run ball. Johnson followed that up with a complete game shutout in Game 2. Neither pitcher threw in Game 3 and the D’backs lost.
For Game 4, Arizona Manager Bob Brenly was faced with the decision of starting Schilling on just three days of rest or going deeper into his starting rotation. We all know how Jim Leyland felt about this scenario. His number four starter would be on the hill, hold all questions please…
Brenly started Schilling who responded with seven more innings of one-run ball. In very Tigers-like fashion though, the bullpen, in this case Byung-Hyun Kim, failed to hold the lead and the Yankees drew the series even at 2-2.
Game 5 was lost by the D’backs as both Johnson and Schilling sat on the pine, watching the Yankees take a 3-2 lead in the series as the action shifted back to Arizona for Game 6.
It was the 37-year old Johnson’s turn in the rotation and he spun seven innings of two-run ball as the D’backs ran away with Game 6, forcing the decisive Game 7.
Would Brenly turn to the 34-year-old Curt Schilling on three days of rest? Again? Sure, why not? Schilling pitched into the 8th and left the game trailing 2-1. In order to keep the game within reach, Brenly turned to none other than Randy Johnson to get the final out of the 8th and pitch to pitch the 9th. Yep, the same old dude who had thrown 104 pitches the night before came right back out and threw 17 pitches, recording four consecutive outs to help keep hope in play. It worked and Arizona did what they did in the 9th to make history.
Brenly kicked conventional wisdom to the curb and decided he would live or die by the hand of his dual aces. The powerful Yankees were held to just 14 runs during the seven game series, and Arizona had their championship.
Max Scherzer most likely won’t be here next year. David Price might only be around through 2015. They are at the top of their profession just like Johnson and Schilling were back in 2001, only much younger. Their time is now. The Tigers won’t keep getting chances every year. At some point a sense of urgency has to kick in.
Pitch counts? 4-man rotations? Ausmus needs to take a page out of Bob Brenly’s book. 3 days rest. Relief work from your ace the night after starting. Whatever it takes to win the ultimate prize.
Given the current state of the roster, the time for the Tigers to win is upon us. How can you cover for a shady bullpen and inconsistent offense? Don’t let the other team score, that’s how.
1-2 punches like Johnson and Schilling don’t come around very often. Same goes for Price and Scherzer. Should the Tigers secure another postseason appearance watch closely how Ausmus sets up his rotation. It will tell you all you need to know and will almost certainly dictate the outcome.
Smoke ’em if you got ‘em.
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