Like '84 title team, Tigers' Series tale starts in West
Verlander's loss in All-Star Game provides twist in home-field fate
SAN FRANCISCO -- Unlike in 1984, these American League champion Tigers weren't scrambling to get on a plane as soon as they knew their World Series opponent. Team officials had already decided they were going to fly out Tuesday at noon ET, no matter where they were going.
Just like in '84, they ultimately flew out to the West Coast for the Fall Classic, giving themselves a day to get acclimated and prepare for Game 1. They're hoping to get the same results as those guys, who defeated the San Diego Padres in five games, the last Tigers team with a World Series championship.
"I don't really know the Giants that well," manager Jim Leyland said after landing Tuesday. "I'm kind of getting a crash course on them. But to be honest, when they were down 0-2 going into Cincinnati, having to win three games, for me that was unbelievable. So nothing surprised me when they got to the Championship Series after I saw what they did in the Division Series, it didn't surprise me at all what they did in the Championship Series. Unbelievable, really."
The Tigers had no elaborate team gathering Monday night to watch Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. They had to pack, not to mention get their family travel plans set, as soon as they found out where they were going. In the end, the suspense was pretty much done fairly early.
Justin Verlander was like many Detroit fans, taking in the game with remote control in hand. He was trying to keep track of both his opponent and his local football team, the Lions, who played Monday night against the Bears.
"Not gonna lie, will be some major channel flipping tonight," Verlander tweeted Monday afternoon.
By the late innings, he tweeted, "attention admittedly has been turned to Lions."
He tuned back in time to watch the end in a downpour.
"They wouldn't delay this game if there was a hurricane," Verlander tweeted.
Verlander will start Wednesday's Game 1 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX at AT&T Park. He'll do so on the road, thanks to the NL's win back in July at the All-Star Game, a loss Verlander took with a five-run opening inning that included a bases-clearing triple by the Giants' Pablo Sandoval.
Verlander famously said afterward that he was trying to give the fans the 100-mph fastballs they wanted to see, regardless of the result. When he was asked that night about home-field advantage of the World Series, Verlander said, "No, I don't think about that."
A sweep and seven
|Year||ALCS winner||NLCS winner||World Series winner|
|2012||Tigers 4, Yanks 0||Giants 4, Cards 3||TBD|
|2007||Red Sox 4, Indians 3||Rox 4, D-backs 0||Red Sox|
|2006||Tigers 4, A's 0||Cards 4, Mets 3||Cardinals|
|1988||A's 4, Red Sox 0||Dodgers 4, Mets 3||Dodgers|
The Tigers were in third place in the American League Central at the time, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox.
"Do I wish it would have worked out a little bit better and we'd be at home right now?" Verlander said Tuesday. "Absolutely. But it didn't, and we're here."
Verlander likely saw enough of the Giants' offense early before channel flipping to know what he's up against. That said, he has always said he focuses more on his own game than on the hitters he's facing.
Leyland watched most of the NLCS, especially once the Tigers clinched. In particular, he watched Barry Zito's performance in Game 5 to help start the Giants' comeback. Now that Zito is starting Game 1, it'll be a matchup that tests Detroit's right-handed hitters with the kind of crafty left-hander that gave the Tigers trouble for much of the season.
"It just shows that you don't have to throw it 95 miles an hour to be a good pitcher," Leyland said. "I thought Zito was absolutely terrific [in Game 5]."
Part of what makes Giants pitching tough, Leyland said, is the contrast in styles. Leyland said it reminded him of his days in Pittsburgh managing against the Mets.
"It reminded me of the days when we used to see Doc Gooden on Saturday night and then Bobby Ojeda on Sunday afternoon," Leyland said. "You know, it's a pretty major adjustment to make."
Leyland downplayed the significance of not facing the Giants aces to start off the series. Matt Cain won Game 7 after Ryan Vogelsong did the same in Game 6.
"It doesn't make any difference," Leyland said. "We didn't have Verlander for Game 1 of the Yankees series. [New York] didn't have [CC] Sabathia. I don't think it makes any difference. You've got to win four games, and I think that's always been overrated as far as having the pitching just right. Whoever pitches the first game, they were going to face at some point."
Catcher Alex Avila said after the Giants win that he had an appreciation for the comeback San Francisco pulled off in overcoming what had been a 3-1 series deficit.
"Winning three in a row is not easy at any time of year," Avila texted, "let alone the playoffs."
That may be the case, but the Tigers head into the World Series on a five-game winning streak. They haven't lost a game since their most recent trip to the Bay Area, when the A's rallied in the ninth inning off Jose Valverde to win Game 4 in the AL Division Series.
After the Yankees erased a four-run deficit off Valverde to start the ALCS, the Tigers went to a bullpen by committee, and Phil Coke stepped in for two saves against the left-handed-hitting heart of the New York order. A look at the Giants lineup shows the matchups that could lead Leyland to go back to Valverde in the ninth.
"Just going to play it by ear, see what happens," Leyland said. "I don't really have any definite information on that yet. We'll just see how the game plays out, who's coming up. Like I always say, I hope we have that to worry about. If we do, we'll come up with somebody."
Now, after three days of workouts and scrimmages with instructional league players, and an additional workout at AT&T Park on Tuesday, they know who they're going to have to beat to win it.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.