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Tigers ride quietly dominant numbers into third straight American League Championship Series

Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander pitches against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts May 29, 2012.
Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander pitches against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts May 29, 2012.

UNDATED (WHTC) – It wasn’t always pretty, but for a third consecutive season the Detroit Tigers are vying for an American League Championship. Powered by eight shutdown innings from Justin Verlander, Detroit blanked Oakland 3-0 in Game 5 of the Divisional Series Thursday. They’ll open the ALCS Saturday in Boston.

Detroit went 93-69 on their way to their third straight Divisional title. The season was full of storylines from who the closer will be, to the rise of Max Scherzer, to the Jhonny Peralta PED connection. Not to mention the questionable health status of Miguel Cabrera.

Despite all of the individual All-Stars on this roster, winning the division in 2013 was truly less about them as individuals and more about the sum of the parts of this year’s team.

An argument for the starting rotation as the hallmark of this team could easily be made. Anytime you could have the likes of JV, Max Scherzer, Anibel Sanchez or Doug Fister on the hill, I think you’d like the Tigers chances. Entering the season, all eyes were on Justin Verlander and his landmark contract extension. Verlander was rather pedestrian this season with a 13-12 record to go with a career high ERA (3.46), lowest strikeout rate (23.5 percent) and lowest innings total (218 1/3) since 2008.

This is where the sum of the parts comes into play.

Where Verlander floundered, the rest of the staff flourished, especially right-hander Max Scherzer. Scherzer enjoyed a career season which saw him win a league best 21 games while recording a 2.40 ERA with 240 strikeouts over a career-high 214 innings. Anibel Sanchez led the American League in ERA (2.57), and was 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA after the All-Star Break. The trio of Verlander, Scherzer, and Sanchez produced three 200-strikeout pitchers on the same staff for the first time since the 1969 Houston Astros.

And then there’s the offense.

Any conversation about the Detroit Tigers offense begins and ends with Miguel Cabrera. Miggy seemed poised to follow up his 2012 Triple Crown campaign with another banner year. The Tigers’ third baseman was blowing last season’s numbers out of the water, but fell short due to a bevy of injuries. Cabrera hit a career high .348 to become the first player in more than 20 years to win three consecutive AL batting titles. His 44 home runs were second to Baltimore’s Chris Davis (53), while 138 RBI’s fell one short of Davis’ 139.

Despite a torn abdominal muscle, Cabrera was only not producing when he wasn’t in the lineup. His two run shot in the fourth inning of Game 5 slammed the door on Oakland with one swing of the bat.

Of course Miguel Cabrera is not the entire lineup. He was supported by Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Torii Hunter this season. Collectively the group managed a .235 batting average in the ALDS.

Through the triumphs and struggles of the long and winding 2013 season, the pieces of the puzzle seem to be coming together for the Detroit Tigers. Their ride to the World Series continues Saturday in Game 1 of the ALCS in Boston. First pitch is set for 8 pm.