Inside Pitch: Team Awaits Playoff Destination

On the final day of the season, and with the playoffs beginning in just two days, the Tigers still don't know where they'll need to be to kick off the postseason.

Playoff destination remains up in the air

"Pack your suitcases and hope that you can take them home after the game."

Those were the instructions Detroit players received after the Tigers beat Cleveland 9-6 Tuesday in the next-to-last game of the regular season.

The Tigers will report to work not Wednesday knowing whether they are going to New York to play the Yankees in the opening round of the playoffs or staying home to play either of the two AL wild-card possibilities.

If Detroit (94-67) finishes tied with Texas (95-66), it wins the tiebreaker (head-to-head season series, won by the Tigers 6-3) and stays home to face Boston or Tampa Bay.

If the Rangers edge the Tigers, Detroit goes to New York. There will be some serious scoreboard-watching Wednesday night with the Texas game starting after Detroit's.

The person this is the toughest on is the Tigers' traveling secretary. Tyson Steele is the guy in charge of making travel arrangements ... planes (the Red Wings and Tigers share one), hotels, meal money for players, game tickets, and a myriad of other things such as booking buses from hotels to the stadium for players and team officials.

Often he has to book two cities at once when destinations are up in the air, unbooking one when the mystery is solved. And when it's playoff time, he checks the team out of the hotel even knowing he might have to rebook when each series gets down to those "if necessary" games.

It looks easy when you turn on your radio or television set, but there are a lot of details to be taken care of to make it happen.

"We're just excited to be in it," right-hander Max Scherzer said, a sentiment echoed by nearly all of Detroit's players and coaches, a mantra that comes down from manager Jim Leyland. "You don't give a lot of thought to where you're pitching. You think about who you're pitching against."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Max Scherzer lasted 5 2/3 innings in his tuneup for the postseason, throwing 109 pitches. Scherzer may have tired a bit at the end, giving up two runs in the sixth after allowing one each in the fourth and fifth. Six of the seven hits he allowed came after two were out in the fourth. While his control was a little erratic, Scherzer kept his fastball down and showed an effective slider. "I'm right where I want to be physically," he said.

--1B Miguel Cabrera enhanced his chances of winning the batting title with a double and his 30th home run of the season. Hitting close to .400 over the last 63 games, he has an RBI in eight straight games and increasingly is mentioned as a top challenger for the AL MVP award. Cabrera takes a league-best .343 batting average into the final regular-season game.

--RF Magglio Ordonez extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a two-run single and an RBI double. The double was only the fourth extra-base hit Ordonez has had in the streak. He's been playing part time but not strictly in a platoon role. He is 25-for-65 (.385) during the streak that began Aug. 15, the day Detroit acquired LF Delmon Young.

--CF Austin Jackson's best weapon is his speed, and it came into play in the first inning, triggering a three-run outburst. He beat out a sharp grounder that the shortstop knocked down but threw wide to first too late to get Jackson. His speed was a bigger factor when the No. 2 hitter, 3B Wilson Betemit, hit a grounder to first for an out. Jackson beat the throw to second, with Indians 1B Carlos Santana double-clutching on the throw and having to throw to the inside of the runner. Jackson scored on a one-out single by LF Delmon Young, and RF Magglio Ordonez had a two-run single later in the inning.

--RHP Jose Valverde ran his saves streak to 48 with a scoreless, one-hit ninth inning to close out Detroit's 9-6 win over Cleveland. Valverde struck out two batters and showed a couple more split-finger fastballs than he generally has used lately. Manager Jim Leyland said he wanted to split his closer and setup man, one working each of the last two games of the regular season, but he wound up using both to turn back a late Indians rally.

--LF Delmon Young snapped out of a mild slump with hits his first three trips to the plate, including a two-run home run in the fourth. Young's RBI single in the first, a grounder up the middle, started a three-run inning. He doubled in the second and hit his 12th home run, his eighth with Detroit, in the fourth.

--3B Wilson Betemit returned to the lineup Tuesday, and manager Jim Leyland inserted him into the second spot in the batting order so he'd get more at-bats. "He came in and said he's OK," Leyland said. Betemit smashed a long solo home run to right in the second inning. Betemit said he's been hitting regularly recently but has had problems with his left knee in the field. He was taken out for defensive purposes after striking out in the fifth. Betemit sprained his left knee sliding into home plate when Detroit clinched its division Sept. 16. He had not played since.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Extra-base hits by RF Magglio Ordonez in his 18-game hitting streak. Ordonez is 25-for-65 (.385) during the streak.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You kind of look at him and think, 'It's a good thing I don't have to face this guy.'" -- RHP Max Scherzer, on watching teammate Miguel Cabrera close in on the AL batting title.


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