This writer, for the second straight year, had the chance to see Justin Verlander open the postseason for the Tigers. That's too good an opportunity to pass up; here's how it felt in the seats at Comerica Park for Game 1 of the ALDS.
ser·en·dip·i·ty /ˌsɛrənˈdɪpɪti/ noun
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck
DETROIT -- If that quote looks familiar, it should. I posted it -- and hopefully, you read it -- just over a year ago when a preplanned business trip to New York coincided with Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS between the Tigers and Yankees. I saw two innings of that game before rain suspended it.
Once again, this year, personal business brought me out of Chicago in early October, this time to eastern Michigan; when I planned this trip weeks ago, I had no idea the Tigers would be hosting a Division Series game on October 6. But there it was. And here I was going to be. "Why not?" I thus thought, and so obtained a ticket to Saturday's festivities and headed, following the completion of business, to Comerica Park. Serendipity, for the second straight year.
As you know, I'm a Cubs fan. We're not used to postseason baseball, at least not since 2008 (and it would seem, not heading there any time in the near future, either). So how does it feel?
Actually, it felt, at least at first, very much like the Cubs' first Division Series game in Chicago in 2008. That is to say, the crowd seemed strangely detached from the action, just as that Wrigley Field crowd felt four years ago. Everyone was handed, on entering the stadium, a little white towel reading "MAKE SOME NOISE Detroit Tigers FANS" (in upper and lower case just like that), as fans waving towels like that helps the crowd get revved up, in addition to making for pretty TV pictures.
And yet, for a time, that just didn't happen. The leadoff home run by the Athletics' Coco Crisp sucked a little air out of a crowd that was expecting Justin Verlander to dominate; there was a little bit of relief sighed when the Tigers quickly tied the game in the bottom of the first inning.
But then, for several innings, there wasn't much in the way of crowd action. There were even some empty seats in the left-field upper-deck corner, and fans in my area kept leaving their seats for food and drink, missing big chunks of action (reports were that lines for the men's room were extraordinarily long). It could have been a sold-out summer Saturday in Detroit instead of a chilly, but tolerable outdoor playoff evening.
Finally, Alex Avila's home run in the fifth inning that put the Tigers up 3-1 got some of the crowd hyped up, and then as Verlander struck out six of the last nine hitters he faced, the white towels started to be waved with more conviction. Maybe Tigers fans need that sort of convincing; after all, I thought, they and the Cubs have exactly the same number of postseason appearances since the Cubs and Tigers met in the 1945 World Series: six (Cubs: 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008; Tigers: 1968, 1984, 1987, 2006, 2011, 2012).
Even as the game headed toward a victorious conclusion for the home team, a few fans attempted to start the wave instead of watching Jose Valverde dispatch the A's in the ninth inning; they were shouted down by others who, at last, were on their feet twirling their towels and cheering loudly, the right thing to do, I'd say, as your club gets one win closer to a second straight berth in the American League Championship Series.
In this peculiarly-formatted division-series round, the team playing the first two games at home -- the team with the worse record -- has an excellent shot at moving on to the next round, if they can win those two games. That would force the team with the better record, the team with home field advantage, to win three straight to advance.
For now, Tigers fans will take the one win and look for another Sunday afternoon, in a quick-turnaround game that begins at noon ET.
For me personally, I wound up with one more baseball game attended than I had figured on this season, one that actually meant something, and watching Justin Verlander mow down hitters is always a treat. For that, I am grateful. For that, and the complete absence of rain.