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Why Detroit Tigers fans will hope Boston Red Sox win World Series


CLEVELAND — They are familiar faces, four players who have found greener pastures, and on this day – Sept. 21 – they are walking around…
CLEVELAND — They are familiar faces, four players who have found greener pastures, and on this day – Sept. 21 – they are walking around the visitor’s dugout at Progressive Field a little bit slower.
A night earlier, the Boston Red Sox clinched the American League East Division title at Yankee Stadium. They arrived in Cleveland for a three-game series around 4 a.m.
But before the game, a few of them are talking about the past, back to the time when they were first teammates together, as part of the Detroit Tigers’ last postseason team in 2014. That team, swept unceremoniously by the Orioles, went in the books as an awesomely underachieving group of baseball talent.
Back then, it seemed like the Tigers were destined to play in October every year.
But this year, the fourth straight, they are sitting at home for the postseason, with no end to that slide in sight. And four of the key players from their last postseason run have been reunited with the Red Sox, who opens their postseason run on Friday night as the team Detroit will be rooting for.
Rick Porcello got to Boston first, in an offseason trade following the 2014 season for Yoenis Cespedes. David Price came two winters later, signing the largest contract ever for a starting pitcher. J. D. Martinez joined in February, signing his long-awaited free agent deal and Ian Kinsler, the elder statesman of the bunch, was acquired in a July 30 trade from the Angels.
The architect of this Boston team, which won a franchise-record 108 games, is Dave Dombrowski, who headed the Tigers’ rise to perennial contention.
“We had a good team in Detroit, man,” said Price, who reached the World Series as a rookie with Tampa Bay. “I always said that had been the best team I’d been on. I felt like it was the best team, talent-wise, but it still wasn’t the best team that I had been on and I don’t even know how to really explain it.”
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It can, in some part, be explained like this: That Tigers team, known for its ridiculous starting rotation – Price, Porcello, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister – failed to win one game that postseason, ambushed by the Orioles in a sweep.
This Boston team is similar, with AL Most Valuable Player front-runner Mookie Betts and Martinez serving as a more athletic Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez; strong starting pitching keyed by Price, Porcello and Chris Sale, a veteran glue guy in Kinsler, coveted by Dombrowski for not only the way he plays the game – all-out – but because he puts the ball in play.
And there is also this similarity: The Red Sox bullpen, thought by many to be this team’s Achilles’ heel, resembles those of the Tigers’ haunted past that fell short of a World Series title, a suspect group that could be exposed in the postseason.
“Having these guys here made it a lot easier,” Kinsler said, talking about his trade from Anaheim, which marked the first time in his career he was traded during the season. “To have guys that you know in the clubhouse always makes the transition easier in coming to a new environment and helping you try to transition as best you can.”
Kinsler needs no introduction to this environment: He’s played deep into the World Series, as part of a Rangers team that came bitterly close in 2011 against the Cardinals – they dispatched the Tigers in the AL Championship Series that year. And, at 36, he is not taking the October opportunity for granted.
“Thankful,” he said. “I’m just thankful to be a part of it. This is what you work for. That’s what the offseason work is for, to prepare yourself for a long season and the postseason and that’s where you want to be come Oct. 1, in the playoffs.”
He came to Detroit with the same expectations, but after 2014, played through three losing seasons before the Tigers’ rebuilding efforts sent him to Anaheim in the winter.
Martinez’s story is well-known, a rags-to-riches one which began with him getting released by the Astros, then picked up by the Tigers before becoming one of baseball’s best power hitters.
Price remembers the moment when Martinez turned his head, in the ninth inning of a Sunday night game at Comerica Park just a short while before he was traded from the Rays to the Tigers. Martinez hit an opposite-field home run off him that night.
On this day, Martinez can’t talk, not for 3 minutes, not even for one minute, because he’s in the midst of his notoriously detailed pregame preparation.
Price and Porcello, who was the Tigers’ wonder boy, a former first-round pick who rose to the big leagues and started the AL Central Division tiebreaker against the Twins in 2009 at just 20 years old, both face the same perception this offseason, that they cannot win the big game.
Price, particularly: He has not won a postseason start in nine tries, with a 5.03 ERA in 17 total appearances, now part of nine postseason teams in 11 years. Porcello hasn’t won a game, either, with a 5.47 ERA in 11 games – four starts – in five trips.
Porcello knows more than most about those Tigers teams. Ever since he debuted in 2009, he has been part of contending teams, save one season in Detroit and one in Boston.
“We got beat by some pretty damn good teams that were playing good baseball,” he said. “No matter how good we were, we had flaws just like anybody else. And when you get to the postseason, in series especially against good teams, those flaws can be exposed.
“I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t regret that, I think we were given every opportunity by Mr. Ilitch. The hardest part was not being able to bring him the championship, especially after the emotional and financial investment. But I know how hard I worked, how hard the guys in the clubhouse worked and how bad we wanted it. If you can’t get it done, you gotta live with the results.”
Kinsler said he never wasted time during the decline of the Tigers’ empire wondering if he would get another shot at the postseason. With the Angels early this year, it looked like he’d have to wait another year, until the Red Sox won his services, out-bidding the Indians in a trade.
Porcello, 29, a veteran of 10 seasons, will likely have more opportunities, but with the wealth of talent the Red Sox have, and a clubhouse chemistry that is considered much better than in years past, perhaps this could be the best opportunity for not only himself, but the other former Tigers on the team.

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