The Detroit Tigers take on the Oakland Athletics tonight in Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series. The winner of this game will go on to most likely face the New York Stankees...the loser goes home. Most people who live outside of the Oakland area are very surprised that this series is even still going on. The Tigers were a heavy favorite to beat the A's handily and go on to win the World Series. Now they are one loss away from ending their 2012 season.
I picked the Tigers to win this series before and despite their struggles in the past two games, I am sticking with them to win tonight. They have their ace (and probably Cy Young aware winner) Justin Verlander going for them tonight.
Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. But for the Tigers to win tonight, he's going to have to pitch the entire game. Their bullpen has proven to be too suspect this past season, and especially in the past two games against Oakland. If history repeats itself, and it usually does, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will want to take Justin Verlander out of the game if they are leading late in the game and turn the ball over to their pathetic bullpen.
I would hope that Verlander is able to tell Leyland "no". I'm reminded of the 1991 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins. Former Tiger Jack Morris threw 126 pitches (10 innings) in Game 7 of that World Series and was the winning pitcher in a 1 - 0 game. Twins manager Tom Kelly stated that he repeatedly tried to take Morris out of the game but Morris refused. He wanted to finish what he started. I remember Morris had a stubborn, nasty, competitive streak in him and it was apparent on that night.
I'd like to see Verlander have more of a Jack Morris edge to him...especially tonight. He will have to put the Tigers on his back and pitch them to the ALCS by himself. The bullpen has proven that they cannot hold a lead. He will have to go the full 9 innings. There is no reason not to let him either...there is no guaranteed tomorrow for either of these teams...all hands on deck.