The Tigers placed injured outfielder Delmon Young back on their roster for the American League Championship Series, a desperate move for a team fighting to stay alive just one game into their meeting with the Texas Rangers.
Young had been taken off the roster because of a mild oblique strain, but the Tigers are gambling he’ll be healthy and strong enough to play because they also lost Magglio Ordonez for the remainder of the season to a broken ankle. The Tigers need right-handed bats to combat the Rangers’ rotation, which features three left-handed starters, including Game 2 starter Derek Holland.
The problem is, Young’s return will likely be a marginal help at best and a hindrance at worst. An oblique injury is one of the worst a baseball player can suffer. Even minor ones typically require weeks, not days, to recover from. Young’s swing will certainly be affected, and chances are the Tigers will be able to use him only a pinch-hitter – at which point in the game the Rangers would be able to choose a right-handed pitcher from their deep bullpen to face him, anyway.
The Tigers would be in trouble even without the diminishing of Young and the loss of Ordonez. Catcher Alex Avila, one of their most valuable players, is clearly hobbled and has gone 1 for 19 in the playoffs. The Rangers stole the clearest advantage the Tigers had by beating Justin Verlander. And, on paper, the Rangers have far more talent than the Tigers, what with a lineup with Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz – sluggers who hit 30 and 29 homers this season – batting sixth and seventh.
“Our lineup is sick,” Rangers starter C.J. Wilson said. “They have slow-pitch softball numbers.”
The Tigers shouldn’t be counted out, if for no other reason than conventional wisdom in October stands the same chance as a hanging curveball. The Tigers have to win four of six games against what seems to be a superior team, but far odder things have happened in the baseball playoffs. Plus, any team with Miguel Cabrera in the middle of its lineup is a threat. And today’s starter, Max Scherzer, carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his first playoff start and has looked nearly as electric as Verlander in the playoffs.
The Rangers were favorites when the series (which resumes this afternoon) began, and their status has only grown since Saturday night. But that doesn’t mean the Tigers are done yet.