The Tigers and Rangers bested AL East clubs on the way to the championship series.
The AL East, with three 90-win teams, looked like the power division in baseball for most of the season. The Boston Red Sox had a ton of expectations after the free agent signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Gonzalez performed as expected, leading the BoSox in batting average, hits and RBIs. Crawford’s first season at Fenway was a disappointment, hitting a career-low .255. Boston fell apart in September, going 7-20 over the final month and missing the postseason. The New York Yankees led the American League in wins with 97 but could not come up with enough clutch hitting in the ALDS against Detroit. Tampa Bay was the surprise team that took advantage of the Red Sox demise, but the Rays were no match for the Rangers in their playoff division series.
That leaves the American League with a championship series of Texas and Detroit. The Rangers were solid across the board this season, finishing first in MLB in batting average and third in runs scored. But it may be Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux who deserves much of the credit for helping the Rangers to the second-straight ALCS. The staff finished fifth in the AL in ERA this year, and that was without 2010 trade acquisition Cliff Lee leading the way. Ron Washington’s club will have the home-field advantage against the Detroit and will be looking to get back to consecutive World Series.
Detroit caught fire down the stretch, hitting an MLB second-best .293 after the All-Star Break. Of course, the leader all season was ace flamethrower Justin Verlander. The obvious Cy Young winner and possible MVP candidate led the majors in wins (24), innings pitched (251.0) and strikeouts (250). Additionally, closer Jose Valverde converted all 49 of his regular-season save chances, plus two more in the ALDS win over the Yankees. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez leading a loaded lineup, the Tigers will be a tough out against Detroit. Game 1 is Saturday night in Texas.