The prelims, if you will, are over and done with. Now, two teams are left fighting for the next-to-the-biggest prize in baseball. The AL Championship.
How they got here: Both teams had pretty solid opponents in the divisional rounds, with the Red Sox trumping the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tigers vanquishing the Oakland A’s. The Rays were a team that could have, should have gone further, but seemed to come unglued at times-and also ran into a team folks feel is destined for greatness this October. As for the Tigers? It took a 5th game before they could make the A’s once a gain a bridesmaid and not a bride. The boys from Oakland looked strong, but in game five they had to contend with one of the best pitchers on the planet in Justin Verlander-and they had no answers.
How they were built: The Tigers have done a good job of building via the farm system (Justin Verlander) as well as through smart trades, such as this summer’s acquisition of Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. And, of course, there have been free agency signings as well (Prince Fielder). Not an uncommon method. Their opponent? Built in a much more unique way. For a while, the off season had two big players-Boston and the Yankees. The past few years, the moves haven’t all been wise ones, and last summer the Red Sox front office decided to admit failure in the midst of a dreadful season, shipping off several high priced disappointments to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They got some talent in return, but the key objective was to shed payroll and gain flexibility. Mission accomplished. Oh sure, the front office still spent this past off season, but they have been exhibiting restraint.
How it plays out: The Tigers and Sox both have pretty strong rotations, though having a 1-2 punch in which Verlander may be #2 this year? That’s a pretty enviable position, as the Tigers get to trot out probable Cy Young winner Max Scherzer out there along with prior Cy Young recipient Verlander. It will be hard to counter that if you are the Red Sox. Not that Boston lacks for weapons-it has it’s own firepower and will surely give Detroit a challenge. In the end though, at least from here and on paper, it’s not going to be fun facing Scherzer, Verlander and the balance of the Tigers staff. Boston may be happy to have home field advantage, and here’s thinking they may need it. I would not be shocked to see most of these games turn into low-scoring pitchers duels.
Who I like: I could root for either team, I really could. For a lot of the season, the Red Sox sure seemed to be the team of destiny this year. Heading into this matchup, however, I really feel that if there was one AL team to challenge for league supremacy, it could be those pesky Detroit Tigers-and here they are. As well-rounded a team as the Red Sox are, I feel that Tigers pitching will dominate this series, with Detroit taking it in 6.