Tigers With No Need For Binoculars, Playoffs Well In Sight

The Detroit Tigers have clinched a spot in the 2014 postseason for a franchise record fourth consecutive year.

Detroit clinched a minimum of a wild card berth after the Toronto Blue Jays were able to hold off the Seattle Mariners 1-0 in 12 innings on Wednesday. However, the Tigers have bigger plans on their mind.

While the Tigers are pleased with a wild card spot secured, they are certainly not satisfied. Detroit has reduced their magic number for winning the division to three games, as they currently sit two games ahead of division foes, the Kansas City Royals. If the current results were to hold, the Royals would be the second wild card team in the postseason (would be their first appearance since 1985).

The Tigers most recent quest for a Central Division title has been a rocky one, and in the end will come down to how they play against teams in their division. The past 15 games have all been against the aforementioned division rivals, with the final four games of the season coming up against the Minnesota Twins. Detroit is 10-5 in those games coming off of a series win in their last series against the Chicago White Sox.

While the Tigers won the final game of the series 6-1, a box score that appears as if they cruised to victory, does not tell half the account, as this game had many more storylines than just the final score.

In the bottom of the third inning with two on and two outs, White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale reached back and threw a high 96 mph fastball right by the hardest hitter in baseball to strike out, Victor Martinez.

After the big strikeout, while the lanky lefty marched over to his dugout, he reached up to the bill of his cap, grasped it, and then took it off or “tipped it” towards what appeared to be center field.

Tipping the cap in baseball is a sign of respect from a pitcher, generally when acknowledging one of his defenders making a play of significance for him. However, in this instance it was all Sale. Curious.

It was only curious until Martinez’s next at bat. With the bases empty and a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning, Sale sent a 93 mph fastball up and in on Martinez, thumping him in his left shoulder.

As Martinez waltzed over to first base, less than happy about what just happened, Sale began to bark at him from the mound. Lip readers believe he was saying “thats your boy out there,” implying that there was somebody out in centerfield giving the second-leading hitter in the American League signals.

As baseball goes, this was a lot of excitement, and in such excitement no one can miss out on the action. The benches cleared, and the bullpens sprinted in from left field, seemingly to stretch their legs, or perhaps catch up with one of their teammates sitting in the dugout.

After 5-10 minutes of hoopla, which saw Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera aimlessly walking amidst a group of White Sox in the middle of what can hardly be qualified as a scuffle, Sale and the White Sox resumed the game with the lead.

That lasted four more pitches.

J.D. Martinez was next at bat, and like he has done in seemingly every big at bat late in games, got a big time hit. JD-Mart doubled V-mart over to third, and then two pitches later Nick Castellanos hit a sacrifice fly in the right-center gap and the game was all tied.

In-between innings, as fans, media and players were attempting to figure out whether or not Sale had intent behind his pitch, the cameras panned on him with his hands in the shape of binoculars and his head oscillating from left to right.

Case closed.

After a 1-2-3 top of the seventh inning, with one out and one on in the bottom half of the inning, Ian Kinsler laced a full count double to the left field corner off of White Sox reliever Javy Guerra. Rajai Davis scored easily from first, and as Kinsler coasted into second base he formed his hands into two circles, with a striking resemblance to binoculars.

As Kinsler scanned the crowd with his makeshift binocs, a certain atmosphere settled into Comerica Park and there was no going back. After a sacrifice fly from Miguel Cabrera made it 3-1, a familiar face marched back out with a familiar scowl in the eighth inning.

Justin Verlander. But not the Verlander of 2014 that makes most fans pull their hair out. The Verlander we all remember, know, and love oh so much. Verlander was in vintage form from the first pitch, as he threw eight innings with just one earned run, seven hits, six strikeouts and for the second consecutive game did not walk a batter.

Detroit is in the best position they have seen since mid-August, and it is coming at just the right time. With two of their former MVP’s rounding into form, the Martinez Band destroying the middle of the order, and Kinsler scanning for more opportunities to win games; the Detroit Tigers pose a very daunting match up for whomever they may oppose.

Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.