Facing uphill climb, Tigers 'pumped' to return home
Facing uphill climb, Tigers 'pumped' to return home
By Paul Hagen
SAN FRANCISCO -- If there's one thing that could make Justin Verlander smile Thursday night, it was the destination listed on the flight manifest for the team charter. The Tigers were going home, back to Detroit, where the 108th World Series will resume Saturday night.
And that, the ace right-hander believes, could make all the difference in the world for the American League champions after dropping the first two games to the Giants at AT&T Park.
That's not a great situation to be in. History is warming up in the Giants' bullpen. Of the 52 teams that have previously swept the first two games, 41 have gone on to win it all. It's also happened eight straight times and on 14 of the last 15 occasions.
Verlander, and everybody else in the room, is banking on the idea that getting back to Comerica Park will be just what they need to turn things around.
"It definitely benefits us, for sure," Verlander said. "We're an AL team. It will be beneficial to play our rules. I think it's just an advantage getting to our park where we're comfortable. The fans are great. We've played extremely well there all year."
The Tigers were 50-31 at home during the regular season but went 38-43 on the road.
"Oh, man, we're pumped," outfielder Quintin Berry said. "It's time to go home and get the fans in our corner. We're just going to go home and do our thing and think about coming back here so we can make it all the way through to Game 6 or Game 7 or whatever we have to do. But we're not worried about it. We know we're going home and we play great at home. The fans have our backs and we'll use that for our momentum.
"Being in your own atmosphere is huge. The fans are always in our corner. And we need that right now. Just being in your own comfort zone. A lot of teams play good at home, so it's good we're going there and we've got three there and we can pick up ground."
The most obvious difference is that the Tigers will have use of the DH, which means that Andy Dirks, a .322 hitter during the regular season, is available to go back to left field while Delmon Young resumes his more accustomed role.
Down, but not out
Although the Tigers find themselves in an 0-2 hole heading back to Detroit, 11 teams have battled back to win the Fall Classic.
While acknowledging that playing with the DH will help, Verlander suggested that it might not be as crucial as in the past.
"I don't think it affects us as much as it did last year," he said. "Because Victor [Martinez] was our DH last year and he was so banged up he couldn't play. He couldn't catch, he couldn't be in the field so we totally lost our second-best bat when we went to Interleague and if we had gone to the World Series. I think our team this year is built a little better."
Catcher Gerald Laird has already mentally mapped out how the Tigers, using their home-field advantage, can regain the upper hand.
"I like our chances," he said. "We've got Anibal [Sanchez] coming Game 3, and if we can get that game we've basically got our back-to-back aces with [Max] Scherzer and Verlander. So I definitely like our chances. We just play well there. You kind of get up to play at home. Playing baseball where we've played good all year. They did their job. They're supposed to win the first two games at home. Now we've got to take care of business at home and if we do our job we can have a lead coming back here.
"It's just been tough. It will be nice to get home in front of our crowd. We know it's going to be nice and loud. We know what to expect. We'll play where we're comfortable. We've got two tough righties form them [Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain], but I like the guys we're sending out there. Hopefully we'll come back here [ahead] three games to two."
Added center fielder Austin Jackson: "We get to go home now and regroup and come out ready to play. It's tough to win in somebody else's home territory. So hopefully that's the advantage we can have going home."
The Tigers also think getting back into a routine after a long layoff between the time they finished sweeping the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and the start of the World Series can only help.
"When you lose the speed of the game, it's hard to get back right away," Laird said. "You hate to make excuses. They're playing good baseball right now. That's the bottom line. We ran into a really hot team. But we get to go home now where we played our best baseball."
Added Verlander: "You go out there and play ball and it is what it is. In this game though we've played for, what, eight months now counting Spring Training? And you don't have more than one day off besides the All-Star break. And then you get five or six. But I can't say whether that's the cause of anything or not. I felt like we put some good at bats together in this game. Obviously we pitched well. We just lost.
"I said [after Game 1] and I still hold to it strongly, I don't see anybody in here hanging their head. Our heads are held high. Nobody in here thinks we're out of this thing. It stinks. I don't think we're happy. But we've been playing must-win games for the better part of two months now. Especially against Chicago. And we won when we had to.
"So go back home and win three. Then win one here."
The Tigers are obviously looking forward to some home cooking. And we're not talking Coney Dogs, either.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.