Red-hot Tigers gaining valuable experience

Detroit Tigers

SEATTLE — The Tigers are now on the clock.

In two of the past five years, that meant Detroit had clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the ensuing MLB Draft. In this case, the Tigers are now on the clock, along with the Angels, for baseball’s longest stretch since a postseason appearance.

Monday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners before a raucous crowd at T-Mobile Park provided Tigers players a glimpse of a postseason-type atmosphere.

“I think it’s definitely huge for the young guys to get out there and feel this kind of environment,” said veteran reliever Andrew Chafin, who picked up his second save in three days. “Shoot, I can’t think of any games this year where it had that kind of intensity to it. Just in the air, you could feel the excitement around the stadium.

“I think it’s good for them to get out there and experience that kind of stuff, see what baseball really can be like, in that regard. Hopefully, they can get out there and get that experience and get it under their belt so that next year, when we’re in the playoff situation, they can say, ‘Ah, we’ve been here before.’”

The last time Detroit played in the postseason in 2014, Eugenio Suárez was a rookie shortstop on the bench who got a pinch-hit appearance in the Tigers’ American League Division Series loss to the Orioles. He’s now a veteran third baseman who has been a major part of the Mariners’ resurgence, helping end Seattle’s 20-year postseason drought.

Nick Castellanos was a rookie third baseman for the Tigers that same year. He’s now a veteran outfielder and run producer on a Phillies team that ended its 10-year postseason drought by clinching a National League Wild Card spot Monday, putting the Tigers and Angels next in line for longest wait.

The last time the Tigers were in contention for a spot, Matthew Boyd was a promising young starter who helped pitch them into the 2016 AL Wild Card race until the final weekend of the regular season. He’s now a reliever for his hometown Mariners.

As Boyd explained Monday afternoon what going to the postseason means, he thought about the years he spent chasing it with Detroit.

“In 2016, we came a game short, how bad we wanted it, believing that we were going to get it the next year,” Boyd said. “That not happening the subsequent year, end of ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘20, that really was hard. The goal always is pouring your heart into saying, ‘No, you know what, I believe that we’re going to do it this year.’”

The Tigers, sensing the urgency to return to contention, released Boyd last offseason following flexor tendon surgery on his left elbow. Boyd found an opportunity when then-Giants general manager Scott Harris called and offered him a contract to rehab and eventually pitch in San Francisco. The Giants traded him to the Mariners in July, but the lessons Boyd learned there have helped him become a bullpen presence in Seattle.

Those lessons are part of the reason Boyd believes Harris, now the Tigers’ president of baseball operations, can help end Detroit’s postseason drought.

“His attention to detail is amazing,” Boyd said. “The conversations that we had in the clubhouse, he’s so in tune with everything with the team. He’s going to be a great fit in Detroit. He finds ways to get wins in every aspect of the ballclub and make it a really well-tuned machine. I was so impressed with him in San Francisco, in our conversations during the signing process and throughout the year. Detroit got a real winner in Scott. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do going forward.”

Harris takes charge of day-to-day baseball operations after the Tigers’ season ends Wednesday. In the meantime, the team has become a thorn in contenders’ sides down the stretch, helping knock the Orioles and White Sox out of the postseason picture. The Mariners clinched an AL Wild Card spot Sunday, but Monday’s Tigers victory, combined with a Blue Jays win over the O’s, clinched the No. 4 seed for Toronto and committed Seattle to a road trip for the best-of-three Wild Card Series.

“I just think as a whole, the way we’ve played finishing up the year is such a good sign for the future,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said of the Tigers, who have won 11 of their past 13. “A lot of young guys are contributing, a lot of key guys that are going to be here for a long time are contributing. It’s been a fun last month of the year. We talked about it today: It’s nice to go into the offseason on a good note with some momentum.”

Articles You May Like

Pitching carries Erie to series win as the full minor league season opens
Justyn-Henry Malloy homers as the Mud Hens win in extras
The Pistons Pulse: New Years Resolutions… Reviewed
Wm. T. Spaeder Series Preview
DoubleHeader: Tigers vs. Twins, 1:10 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *