BOSTON – After their clinching Game 5 in their ALDS match with the A’s in Oakland Thursday night, the Tigers flew cross-country overnight, landing in Boston early Friday morning, before their workout at Fenway Park Friday afternoon.
Manager Jim Leyland still had his sense of humor, though.
“We're used to getting in at 9. Most of the time it's not after a game. No, I'm kidding you,” Leyland said.
“It was a little rough, to be honest with you. But probably the best long flight we've ever had, obviously, for the right reasons. A little tired. A little worn out. But we'll be fine by tomorrow. We'll recoup, had a little workout today and go about our business.”
But, after getting swept by the Giants last season in the World Series, the Tigers would like nothing more than to erase that memory. How much fuel has that loss provided the Tigers this season?
“Well, I think that's a normal thing to say,” Leyland said. “I'm not really sure that's been a motivational factor. We always start the season with the idea that we're trying to get to postseason. And then it becomes a crap shoot. I think it reads good that we had a bitter taste.
“I will say this: we were embarrassed last year in the World Series. When you lose four straight it’s not good. So we were embarrassed a little bit. We'd like to stretch it out a little bit.
“I think there is some incentive there. But I think a lot of times that's just a normal thing to say, really, sometimes. But I think in our case last year we got swept. And we didn't even get to six games or five games. And that was a little bit embarrassing. But I think every year is a new year. You start over. You start fresh. And there's certainly no guarantees, even though a lot of people said that if we don't make the playoff it's a total bust. You find out it's just not that easy.
So we're back. And like I said in Oakland yesterday, we were just trying to get to the Final Four. It's almost like the basketball tournament. We're in the Final Four. And we'll see what happens.”
* The Tigers will go with a rotation of four right-handers – Anibal Sanchez in Game 1, followed by Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Doug Fister.
Sanchez is the former Red Sox minor leaguer who was shipped to the Marlins, along with Hanley Ramirez, in the November 2005 trade that brought Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett to Boston. Sanchez has faced the Sox just once, in 2006 while with the Marlins.
“He led the American League in the earned run average,” Leyland said. “He did not have a good playoff start. I feel very confident in him. I think he was probably a little rusty, as Fister was the other day, it took him a couple of innings to get going. I think he'll be back in the groove now. Like I said, he led this league in earned run average. That's pretty impressive.
“This is the Final Four. They're putting a real good team out there and we're putting a real good team out there. They're putting a real good pitcher out there and we're putting a real good pitcher out there. That's what the Final Four is supposed to be.
“Congratulations to the three other teams that got here. It's tough. It's tough to get here, believe me. And now once again it becomes a crap shoot.”