The situation looks grim for the Detroit Tigers. They’re down to three healthy guys that have been everyday players for the entire year: Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta, and Miguel Cabrera. They have four guys who have been relatively reliable platoon (or regular fill-in) players of late: Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn, Brandon Inge, and Don Kelly. They have three guys who are so battered and beat up that they can hardly swing the bat: Delmon Young, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez.
With this set of eleven players, they’ll try to fill out their lineup card in such a way that will win three straight games from the Texas Rangers (I’m confident that Wilson Betemit and the three rookies won’t be considered to start, barring further injury).
Needless to say, the Tigers won’t be winning this series in a shootout. The only way that Detroit escapes this 3-1 hole is if Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister each come up with a “legends are born October” type outing.
Tonight, Justin Verlander takes the mound for the Tigers without the benefit of any reliable reliever behind him. Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde will probably be “available” (it is the postseason after all), but both have been heavily taxed over the last three days. For the Tigers to have a good chance of winning, Verlander should be looking at eight innings of two run ball or better (preferable one or zero runs). That’s slight hyperbole maybe, but not really.
If the Tigers can survive game five to shift the series back to Texas, then they’ll be counting on similar outings from Max Scherzer in game six and Doug Fister in game seven. The off-day on Friday would give the late-inning relievers some much needed rest, but Scherzer and Fister would be looked at to pitch into the seventh inning. It would make me uncomfortable to see anyone other than Benoit or Valverde (or perhaps Coke to get a lefty or two) pitch in an elimination game.
Detroit probably can’t count on the battered offense scoring more than three runs, so it will be up to the pitching staff to hold down the Texas bats. That’s a tall order, but these Tigers pitchers do have the ability to do that. It’s the only way to extend the season.