Thursday, October 05, 2006

Redemption, Detroit Tigers-style

Yes, the Detroit Tigers are young, almost devoid of postseason experience and certainly never to be confused with the Forbes 500-caliber millionaires employed by George Steinbrenner.

But, the freshman team vs. the varsity?

That certainly was the perception on the eve of the American League Division Series between the wild-card winning Tigers and the league's winningest team in the AL East champion Yankees.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland even joked about it - often enough to suggest that the constant references to a mismatch had become an issue, and a cause, among the Detroit contingent at Yankee Stadium the last few days.

Well, Detroit stunned one-half of baseball-mad New York into silence today when it evened the series at 1 game apiece. The Tigers did so, thanks to superb pitching by some of those inexperienced kids, most notably starter and rookie of the year candidate Justin Verlander (5 2/3 innings, three runs) and 100-mph, flamethrowing reliever Joel "Zoom-by-ya" Zumaya (1 1/2 innings, three strikeouts).

With the win in his pocket and egg on the face of some of the Tigers' harsher New York critics, Leyland started to show how much the chiding had registered.

"I'm sure we haven't convinced everybody, but I hope in my heart that everybody realizes that we are a playoff team. I hope that we at least proved that today. To do what we did with those kids pitching and the way we played the game, I hope at least everybody believes that we're worthy of being in the playoffs."

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