The Tigers' four-game set with the Red Sox last week was, for the most part, far too mind-exploding to retell. To put it concisely, in no way was part of the plan involving nearly 10 innings out of Chris Lambert and Zach Miner. Last Thursday afternoon, the series looked pretty hopeless, even though Justin Verlander was scheduled to start.
A few teams have legitimate aces, and it's quite breathtaking to watch. An ace can change the momentum of a series. A week. A season. And all it takes is one well-time outstanding start.
Think back to Mark Buehrle's perfect game. The White Sox, for the last few weeks, were playing nothing but .500 ball. Not even in the parity-riddled AL Central is that enough to win. And, admittedly, the White Sox still haven't been beating the world since then, but once their fans saw that every fifth game is a good chance to see a ton of Buehrle Strikeouts (read: pop flies), there's no reason to give up on the team.
Back to Thursday. This was another such game. The context:
• The Tigers lost three straight and were in danger of being swept by the Red Sox in Fenway Park
• The bullpen was plum tired from all those emergency innings
• The White Sox were closing in on first place
What does Verlander do in that situation? Eight innings, seven baserunners, and eight strikeouts. The Tigers won 2-0, and the game didn't just help salvage dignity, it wholly redeemed it.
Detroit is a combined 2-11 against the Yankees and Red Sox. With no more games against either team, what does that stat mean anymore? Detroit was 2-5 against the Yankees in 2006 during the regular season before they beat them in the ALDS in four games.
Someone may have to face Justin Verlander twice in an ALDS. In three games against the YankSox*, he's allowed two runs in 22 innings, allowing 18 hits and striking out 23. That's the difference an ace makes.
But to get to October there is still, among some other series, 25 more games against the AL Central. That's a lot of nail-biters against the formidable Twins and White Sox, not to mention the pesky Indians and Royals. Verlander's divisional numbers, in nine starts: 7-1 (three complete games) with a 1.98 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings.
There are legitimate No. 1 starters, like Kevin Millwood and James Shields, but aces like Verlander, Buehrle, and Zack Greinke legitimately change momentum. It'll be a hell of a final month and a half.