Detroit Manager Jim Leyland won a World Series title in 1997 with the Florida Marlins, and was there with the Tigers in 2006 and 2012, but with different results.
Long regarded as one of the best at his trade, if the 68-year-old Tigers’ head man is able to coax his club to the ultimate prize, it will make an incredible story for a man whose 22-year career has included being named Manager of the Year three times.
And though it’s still early, this past weekend at Comerica Park the Tigers (13-10) looked like World Series contenders, taking three inter-league matches from the Atlanta Braves (15-9).
That the Tigers dominated this short series, outscoring the Braves, 25-7, emphasized that pitching ace Justin Verlander (2-2 with a 1.95 earned-run average) didn’t take the mound.
Detroit smacked three homers in its 8-3 triumph on Sunday, with the key blow Miguel Cabrera’s three-run shot in the seventh. In that same frame, Omar Infante hit a solo homer.
Austin Jackson’s three-run dinger in the third inning set the rout in motion, but not before the Braves countered with a three-run, fourth inning as Chris Johnson had a run batted in double, Evan Gattis an RBI single, and Dan Uggla a run-scoring fielder’s choice.
In the sixth, Detroit pulled ahead on a scoring fly from Victor Martinez, and the Braves had no answer for Doug Fister (4-0), who limited the Braves to six hits and three runs (earned) in seven innings, striking out eight and walking none.
In the middle game on Saturday, a 7-4 win, Detroit’s Rick Porcello (1-2), who was pushed around by the Angels for nine runs and nine hits in two-thirds of an inning a week earlier, bounced back with a stellar showing.
Porcello set down the Braves in order during the first, second, fifth and sixth innings, and worked six and one-third frames with five hits, three runs (earned), walking two and fanning five.
Porcello allowed a bases-loaded walk to Uggla in the third, gave up a run-scoring fielder’s choice to Justin Upton, and a run-scoring single to Freddie Freeman that gave Atlanta a 3-2 lead, which nullified Jhonny Peralta’s two-run dinger in the second.
The Tigers tied it at 3-3 with a run in the third as Cabrera’s infield hit drove in Jackson, who singled with one out.
Detroit tallied two runs in the fourth inning when Alex Avila worked an eight-pitch walk, and Infante drove him in with a homer.
When Don Kelly led off the eighth with a double, he scored on Infante’s one-out double, and Cabrera’s two-out single plated another run.
Upton’s major-league leading 12th homer, a two-out solo drive in the eighth cut the Tigers’ advantage to one run.
The opener on Friday belonged to pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who set a Tigers’ record with 17 strikeouts as Detroit romped to a 10-0 victory.
Sanchez (3-1), a hard-throwing right-hander, used 121 pitches over eight innngs and yielded five hits with one walk, and was backed by a 15-hit attack that included a grand slam from Matt Tuiasosopo during a six-run, fourth inning.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.