No, the Detroit Tigers have not, in any way, guaranteed themselves a playoff spot. But after losing 10 straight road series, spirits are high when the series that finally snapped the losing streak was against, of all teams, the first place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
My knee-jerk reaction after the Tigers took two of three against the Halos was, “God, I hope the Tigers play these guys in the first round.” Then I slapped myself with the remote control, because that may be a terrible wish.
The “best” team, i.e., the most beatable team, someone can play in the American League playoffs would be, unfortunately, the Tigers. According to Section 5, Rule 38.1H, one team is not allowed to play itself in a postseason. Therefore, the next best hope is either the Angels or the New York Yankees.
I suppose the Angels could be overtaken by the Texas Rangers in the American League West, but if we’ve already assumed that the Tigers are winning the AL Central, a declaration that rates an 8.4 on the Jinxter Scale, let’s go ahead and call the division races for New York and Los Angeles.
If Texas wins the Wild Card, then the knee-jerk hope will come true, and Detroit will face the Angels. But if the Red Sox hold their lead, or Tampa Bay comes out of nowhere to win it, then it’ll be a rematch of the 2006 ALDS.
The Tigers, who limped into the playoffs that year, beat the Yankees in a short series, something nobody saw coming. And I’d like to think the same logic applies, perhaps more so this year. Is it more likely that Detroit can beat this year’s Yankees three of five times, or four of seven? Well, both are pretty unlikely, since they couldn’t even win two out of six in the regular season against them. Therefore, the fewer the sample size, the sweeter the optimism.
The knee-jerk logic goes as such: Detroit has a better chance of beating the Angels, and there’s always a tiny chance that the other team can upset the Yankees. But I’m inclined to instead think with my rational tibia and cheer on the RaySox until October 4.