Tigers turn attention to Fall Classic
With sweep of A's in the books, club gears up for Series
DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers are going to the World Series for the first time since 1984, and when you've been away for that long and have lost 300 games over the previous three years, you're not too picky about which National League team you'll play.
The Tigers have a week to think about Game 1 of the World Series, so Saturday was not the time to delve deeply into pairings and matchups, especially since they don't yet know who they will be facing, either the New York Mets or the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I have friends on St. Louis, so I'd like to see them, but really, it doesn't matter to me who we play," ALCS MVP Placido Polanco said.
Closer Todd Jones, who spent nine years in the National League with Houston, Colorado, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Florida, also doesn't have a preference at this point. For now, Jones and the Tigers are simply savoring their newly crowned status as American League Champions.
"When you're the butt of everybody's jokes and you're the opening line on Jay Leno and [Dave] Letterman for so long, this feels pretty good," Jones said.
The Tigers will have home-field advantage in the World Series, thanks to the American League's victory in the All-Star Game at Pittsburgh back in July. Which means Games 1 and 2 will take place at Comerica Park, beginning Oct. 21.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland won't set his rotation until he knows the opponent. In the meantime, the pitching staff will get a chance to rest up for the next round while watching the Mets and Cardinals.
Leyland will be watching too, as he has several decisions to make.
Usually the Detroit rotation is set up so a lefty follows a right-hander, but Leyland is not afraid to change things around, like starting Nate Robertson in Game 1 of the ALCS against Oakland ace Barry Zito when many observers figured the Tiger skipper would go with Kenny Rogers.
Rogers, who hasn't allowed a run in the postseason, is a deserving Game 1 starter. But if the opponent is the Mets, will Leyland use the former Met in Game 2 instead so he can pitch a possible Game 6 back in Detroit?
Robertson pitched well on the road at Oakland, he could be held for one of the middle games in the National League city. Justin Verlander has also pitched well and Jeremy Bonderman was the starter in Game 4. None of the four starters -- Rogers, Robertson, Verlander or Bonderman -- have seen a lot of action against the Cardinals or Mets, so past histories cannot tell us much.
Verlander did beat St. Louis and Cardinals ace right-hander Chris Carpenter in a game at Comerica Park on June 25.
Another issue for Leyland to decide is first base. If Sean Casey is not able to play because of his calf injury, it is assumed Leyland will likely activate Chris Shelton for the World Series.
That could be a factor, as Casey owns a .291 career average against St. Louis and was 5-for-17 (.294) against the Mets this season.
Several of the Tiger position players have enjoyed success against the Mets and/or Cardinals. Magglio Ordonez, whose walk-off home run won Game 4 of the ALCS, hit .600 against St. Louis this season (6-for-10) and is a .375 career hitter against the Cardinals.
Neifi Perez hit .417 (5-for-12) against the Mets this season and .275 for his career. Curtis Granderson batted .538 (7-for-13) and scored six runs in the three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Comerica Park back in June.
The week off will also give Leyland a chance to rest his bullpen, especially Joel Zumaya, who missed the last two games of the ALCS because of a sore wrist.
With no designated hitter in the NL park, Leyland will also be reintroduced to the NL style of play for at least two games. Of course, he has plenty of experience with that and numerous players with ample NL experience, such as Perez, Casey and Polanco.
Unlike their first two playoff series, this time the Tigers will likely be favored.
"That would surprise me," Jones said. "People have been doubting us all along, I don't think they're going to change now."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.