Tigers eye the big prize after sweeping Yankees in ALCS

The Detroit Tigers celebrate an unexpected sweep of the New York Yankees. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

No one thought the Tigers would be contending for the World Series title.

It’s true.

Detroit did not live up to the hype that surrounded them in spring training. In fact, they let a lot of people down. The up and downs of their roller-coaster regular season made many sick. This was a team that sat in first place for only the last 10 games of the season. This was a team with spotty pitching and a lack of productive hitters that even lost the easiest games.

“I just reminded everybody when we took our punches all year,” manager Jim Leyland said, “let’s just wait until the end, and then if we have underachieved, I will be the first one to admit it. But let us play out the schedule to see if we underachieve.”

Even though anyone from Detroit’s rotation could have won it, Delmon Young was awarded the ALCS MVP. I don’t know what it is or where it was, but Young found it. He batted .353 with six RBIs in the ALCS. If anything, Young has raised his stock for the free agency, and that’s even if Detroit wants to let him walk in the offseason. It’s going to be a tough decision to make, though. He’s hit five playoff home runs against New York in each of Detroit’s series against them the past two postseasons. His seven career postseason homers since 2011 is a Tigers record as well as his 14 postseason RBIs, which place him second in franchise history. And he is the first player with four game-winning RBIs in one postseason series. “Clutch” is a word that will be associated with him going forward.

Now, the Tigers will make their 11th World Series appearance– the second time in six years. This will be Leyland’s third visit to the big show as a manager. It’s  safe to say this is, by far, his best team to date. The wise relic to the great game shed a few tears after his team completed its sweep of the Yankees Thursday night. This has been something we’ve gotten used to over the years. He’s that tough grandpa everyone has; that when he cries you know it’s something meaningful. You know he’s not all grit and stubbornness.

There was much debate the 67-year old Leyland might be replaced when Detroit started to take a dive in the first half of the season. However, all doubters were quieted when GM Dave Dombroski spoke up last night.

“Jim Leyland is welcome back here,” Dombrowski said. “He knows that. He’s in a situation where we want him back, and I’m sure that he wants to come back.”

The Tigers finished off the Yankees, 8-1, in their ALCS massacre. Max Scherzer continued his team’s dominance on the mound; giving up one run in the five innings he pitched in the win, while striking out 10. This is the third time in six years that Detroit has owned the Yankees in postseason play.

In the midst of their success, New York seems to have grabbed the most headlines, though. The coverage on who was starting over who, or where certain overpaid underperformers will end up next year, overshadowed Detroit’s performance. There were even discussions of what the Yankees of 2013 will look like. These distractions had to play a part in their dismal play. But who cares? There’s no room for drama in baseball, and Detroit has quietly climbed over that to become the American League’s top team. Unlike New York, they have no drama. They have a certain chemistry that was a must for the World Series contenders that have gone before them. They are a complete team.

“We’re just one big happy family here, “Leyland said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

It  has been a magical season thus far. A movie producer could not have scripted a better movie. All they need now is a World Series victory and they will join the other Tigers champions in history.

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