The Tigers put their stamp on what's proving to be a season as magical as 2006 by winning the AL Central division with an amazing 11 games to spare. Even more impressively, the Tigers' current 13.5-game lead over the next-best Indians is the largest of any division-leader this year. They accomplished this by bucking the trend of every other Leyland-led Tigers team of the last five years, enjoying a terrific second half, especially thanks to their recent 12-game winning streak and a 16-4 mark in the last 20 games. Before the current series with Oakland, Detroit played 19 games against divisional foes (six vs. Minnesota, four vs. KC, six vs. Chicago, three vs. Cleveland) and won 16 of them, a time span that saw their lead skyrocket.
I've had my problems with Leyland, and rightfully so, but while the Tigers are riding high, I'll leave my beefs with Sir Smokesalot behind and enjoy this ride. Detroit will be back in the playoffs for the first time since that memorable 2006 season, plus they won their division for the first time since the equally-excellent '87 campaign. As always, anything can happen in the playoffs, with the '06 Tigers and Leyland's '97 Marlins being good evidence of teams that rode a Wild Card berth all the way to the Series. Still, this is a team that can be as scary as any other in a short series, and it's possible that Detroit is peaking at the right time. Will Detroit see the birth of a new Mr. October, such as Justin Verlander? Time will tell, but for now here's a couple reminders of past Tigers playoff moments!
Michigan game day: not nearly as great as last weekend edition:
I'm not sure anything this season will top last weekend's legendary Under the Lights last-second win against Lou Holtz's 13-0 BCS National Champ (in his mind anyway) Irish, but this week's less-than-inspiring matchup against Eastern Michigan will likely be a bit of a letdown for Wolverines fans. Still, it appears to be a game Michigan needs right now, first to recover from last week's craziness, and more importantly to work some things out on both sides of the ball in anticipation of true tests against Big Ten conference foes in a couple weekends. So while this game can't compete with the weekend's more lucrative matchups (OSU @ Miami, MSU @ Notre Dame, Oklahoma @ Florida State) it'll still be interesting to see what adjustments the team can make. As long as Angry Michigan Everything-Hating God doesn't make an appearance today, Coach Hoke should open his inaugural Michigan season at a sterling 3-0 mark, a great first step in healing the program. GO BLUE!