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Do or die is Tigers specialty - Through The Fence Baseball

Do or die is Tigers specialty

by JJ Stoppard | Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2011
| 831 baseball fanatics read this article

Detroit's dynamic duo: Don and Delmon. (Harry How/Getty Images)

You probably knew it would come to this. If you watched the Tigers at all this year. If you had the slightest bit of hope. If you cleared your schedule for a home stand next weekend. You probably knew it would come to this. Game six. On the road. Against the Texas Rangers. In the ALCS.

And not even a game six to end the series. No. A game six to force a game seven. As Tom Laverty said in his post, the Tigers have their backs up against the wall. And that’s a good thing, because the Tigers are a backs-up-against-the-wall kind of team.

In the regular season, the Tigers played some of their best baseball with two outs. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta were all more likely to get on base. And Miguel Cabrera had more extra base hits.

In the postseason, only the players have changed. Cabrera’s slugging percentage is still higher with two outs. But the other three guys you want to see in that situation? Brandon Inge, Delmon Young and Don Kelly. Who could’ve predicted that?

The Tigers have made a season of unexpected plays by the least expected players. Walk-off home runs by Ramon Santiago and Inge. Stolen bases by Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera. Doug Fister climbing his way up the rotation. And it’s a trend that has continued into the postseason with the likes of Kelly, Young and Inge. Ryan Raburn with two home runs in eight playoff games. And Max Scherzer’s six-inning shut out of the Yankees – in Yankee Stadium.

As a team, the Tigers demonstrated their ability to play better under pressure when they forced a game five in the ALDS. Against the Yankees. After a 10-1 blowout loss at home in game four, the Tigers took to Yankee Stadium in a last ditch effort to stay alive in the postseason. And they pulled it off. With home runs from – you guessed it – Young and Kelly. And without Justin Verlander.

Game five against the Rangers in the ALCS also found the Tigers fighting for their lives. They were down three games to one in the best-of-seven series after losing at home the night before. A painful loss. In the 11th inning. On a Nelson Cruz home run. Again.

But this is when they shine. Like their perfect, but heart-attack-inducing closer, Jose Valverde, the Tigers just have to make it interesting. Create the drama. Shove every fan off a cliff, only to reach out and grab them milliseconds before they hit the ground.

Game five was no different. Going into the ninth, the Tigers were up by three with Phil Coke in for the save. The first two outs came quick and the sellout crowd was on its feet. But then … with two outs, the Rangers scored to put them within two runs of the lead. And the tying run came up to bat – and walked.

But you know how this ends. Going into the game, the Tigers were 81-0 when leading after the seventh.

82-0. Impressive.

The win in game five was helped along by the usual suspects – Verlander with the start, for one. And, of course, some unexpected players. Two home runs by Young. Raburn with a solo shot. And most unexpectedly, a home run by a guy who only had two hits in 33 post season at bats – Alex Avila. A good, solid, inspiring Tigers win.

And so, here we are.

Game six.

You probably knew it would come to this.

If you watched the Tigers at all this year.

If you had the slightest bit of hope.

If you cleared your schedule next weekend for a home stand.

You probably knew it would come to this.

Game six. On the road. Against the Rangers. In the ALCS.

You knew. And let’s be honest … you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Post By JJ Stoppard (24 Posts)

JJ Stoppard is a Detroit-based writer with strong beliefs in the Church of Baseball, Ernie Harwell and the Detroit Tigers. jjstoppard@gmail.com

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