Sweep sensation: Tigers get a week to prepare for the World Series
Sunday, October 15th 2006, 4:40 pm
News On 6
DETROIT (AP) _ It was past midnight when Curtis Granderson, his dad and several family members finished dinner at a popular Greektown restaurant and headed out to a celebration in full swing.
``Sweet,'' the Detroit Tigers' leadoff man said.
Horns honking and brooms poking through moon roofs, downtown was alive into early Sunday. Spotlights swirled in the sky, people on the street slapped high-fives with strangers.
When the sun rose above Woodward Avenue across the street from Comerica Park, it lit up the State Theatre's marquee ``Let's Party Like It's 1984'' in what might become the Motor City's new catch phrase.
Going to the World Series will make a city go a little crazy. Especially one that's been starved for a winner for 22 years.
``Nobody could have expected this. It's unreal,'' said Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline, now working in the club's front office.
The Tigers continued their remarkable journey from farce to force by sweeping Oakland in the AL championship series, beating the Athletics 6-3 Saturday when Magglio Ordonez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning.
Ordonez raised one arm, then both after connecting for his second home run in Game 4. From all corners of the stadium and beyond, Tigers fans cheered a pennant that seemed impossible back in spring training.
While the party was in progress on the field, Ordonez wandered around asking, ``Where's my family? Where's my family?''
At the same time, the stadium announcer neatly let everyone know the date of the Tigers' next home game: next Saturday, for the World Series opener against either the St. Louis Cardinals or New York Mets.
The losingest team in baseball over the past 13 seasons, the club that suffered through 119 defeats only three years ago, will make its first Series appearance since 1984.
Manager Jim Leyland and these Tigers will go in with a seven-game postseason winning streak _ suddenly they're looking a lot like the 2004 Boston Red Sox and 2005 Chicago White Sox, teams that got on a roll in October and stampeded to the championship.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez and pitcher Kenny Rogers are the only players on Detroit's roster with Series experience. General manager Dave Dombrowski and Leyland were together when the Florida Marlins won the 1997 crown.
``This is an amazing moment. Not just for us, but for this whole city,'' Rodriguez said.
And with a week to rest up, the Tigers figure to be in good shape. Leyland can set up the rotation any way he wants, picking Rogers, Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson or Jeremy Bonderman to pitch Game 1.
Plus, first baseman Sean Casey and hard-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya will get extra time to recover from injuries that sidelined them for most of the ALCS.
Casey, who batted third in the order, injured his left calf in the opener against Oakland. He expects to return to the lineup Saturday.
``This week off is going to be huge for me,'' Casey said. ``There's no doubt I can play in Game 1.''
Zumaya figures he'll bounce back from problems with his right forearm and wrist.
``Everything is falling into place,'' he said.
For Leyland, too.
He sat in his office, feet up on the desk and sipping champagne while savoring this latest victory. And if St. Louis wins the NLCS, it could set up quite a reunion for Leyland with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
Leyland left managing for six years before taking over the Tigers this season. Yet while he was out of the dugout, he wasn't out of baseball. Instead, he was on the Cardinals' side.
``I worked for them for five years. I was around that ballclub in spring training. I helped out,'' he said. ``I was around Tony La Russa. I helped his veteran players, bought into the program. I never had a finer boss.
``They kind of inspired me to get back in, and I kept getting closer to it and closer to it,'' he said. ``I think probably the reason I got back in is because of the St. Louis Cardinals.''