Relief Pitching Will Be Key To Detroit’s Playoff Run

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Verland throws some practice pitches at Comerica Park. Photo: Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo

The starting pitchers for the Detroit’s first playoff matchup in their hunt for the World Series championship hold the last three Cy Young award winners. In theory, that sounds like the Tigers have a pretty good shot at taking the upcoming series over the Baltimore Orioles. But there are a few snags in that assumption.

One of the potential trouble spots is if a game gets close.

Joe Nathan Detroit Tigers

The Orioles have a strong relief crew, but Detroit has had uneven results with closers Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain.  When asked about his bumpy start with the Tigers, Nathan said he is confident he’s made progress.

“This is not something that you can just fix overnight, you know,” Nathan said. “You go out there and get beat around a little bit, it’s gonna take a little bit of time to get back to where you wanna be. But I really feel like I’ve hit some strides and really been on a pretty good groove as far as at least going out on the mound with the right mindset. And my stuff from there has gotten a lot better.”

Brad Ausmus and Team at Comerica Park.

At Tuesday’s practice Tigers Manger Brad Ausmus said the playoffs are a new season of baseball, pure and simple.

“It’s baseball at its core. And the truth is post-season baseball is like baseball when you’re in Little League. It’s about one thing and one thing only – winning,” said Ausmus.

The second potential fly in the Tigers’ ointment is hitting.  For the Orioles it’s feast or famine – they are big home run hitters with not much in base hits. While this works out well over a regular season facing five-man rotations, in the playoffs the typical four-man rotation leaves only the strongest starters on the mound – a problem for big hitters. Unless, of course, if there is a weak relief staff.

So while Detroit may have strong starting pitching, the team’s ultimate success … or failure … still rests with the relievers.

Game 1 of the American League Division Series is today at 5:37 p.m. at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

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