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With Young, Ordonez out, Tigers see chance to show toughness

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His ankle broken, Ordonez is the second right-handed batting threat Detroit loses. (US Presswire)  
His ankle broken, Ordonez is the second right-handed batting threat Detroit loses. (US Presswire)  

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As crazy as these last couple of weeks of baseball have been, I'm thinking the Tigers come back and win this American League Championship Series.

How do they do it? I have no idea.

They had a bad day Saturday, when ace Justin Verlander lost to the Rangers in Game 1. They had a worse day Sunday, when they found out Magglio Ordonez has a fractured right ankle and has joined fellow outfielder/middle-of-the-order hitter Delmon Young on the sidelines.

Every day in Texas, it seems to get just a little worse for the Tigers. And now, after Sunday's rainout, they have to stay around for Monday, too.

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What more can go wrong?

"This is a great opportunity for us, and it's a great opportunity for us to show how tough we are," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And we're tough."

I admire Leyland. He's sending the right message to his team. He's not supposed to deal in reality, at least not in public.

But the reality is that the Tigers are in serious trouble.

Against a team with three left-handed starters, they've lost two big right-handed threats. They didn't immediately announce a replacement for Ordonez on their playoff roster, in large part because none of the options are good ones.

Even Sunday's rainout may be bad news for them, because it means that now Alexi Ogando will be available in the Rangers bullpen for Game 2. Rangers manager Ron Washington said Ogando couldn't have pitched Sunday, after throwing 32 pitches in a brilliant two innings Saturday night, but that he will have him Monday.

"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," Leyland said. "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for us. We'll make do. We'll come out at 3:19 [Central time on Monday] ready to play."

That's Leyland's message, and he'll no doubt use all of our predictions of doom in his pregame message Monday.

But remember, I'm not predicting doom. I told you they're still going to win, even though I admitted that it makes no sense at all that they will.

Seriously, though, they could, and here's how:

First off, they'll need to pitch. They'll need Game 2 starter Max Scherzer to be every bit as good as he was against the Yankees, and they'll need Game 3 starter Doug Fister to be every bit as good as he was down the regular-season stretch.

They'll need their bullpen to match the Rangers bullpen. They'll need Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde to hold onto any late-inning leads.

And they'll need Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to hit.

Lost in the Tigers' Division Series win over the Yankees was the lack of hitting from the Tigers' big hitters.

Cabrera had a big day against Freddy Garcia in Game 2, but overall in the postseason he's 3 for 18 with only three RBI. It's not all because teams are pitching around him.

Martinez is slightly better, at 5 for 22 with four RBI.

As a team, the Tigers hit only .228 against the Yankees, and scored only 17 runs in five games. And three of those runs came on home runs by Young.

They scored two runs Saturday, one on a wild pitch.

"Guys have to step up," said catcher Alex Avila, who admitted that he's not close to 100 percent physically but said it's no excuse.

Just think, if they do win now it'll be a great story, a story of overcoming long odds. A story like the one about the Rays and Cardinals making it to the playoffs after being nine or 10 games out with a month to play.

They're up against it now, and would be even if Ordonez could play.

The Rangers lineup is as hot as it is talented, and the Rangers bullpen is as deep as it is good.

"Mike Gonzalez is a closer, and he came in for one out," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "That's what we're able to do."

Kinsler also joked about the rain, reminding us that the weather story of the summer in Texas was heat and drought, not rain delays and rainouts.

"It'd be nice if we could have moved this rain to June, when it was 106 for 10 days in a row," Kinsler said.

Those are the Rangers' concerns. That's what they were thinking about Sunday.

The Tigers were regrouping, figuring out how they're going to come back and win this thing.

I'm saying it's going to happen. I wish I could tell you how it will.

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