COMMENTARY | As the Detroit Tigers look to make their way back the World Series, the road starts in a familiar place. In last year's American League Divisional Series, the Tigers disposed of the Oakland Athletics in five games.
With Game 1 set for Friday night Oct. 4 in Oakland, here are 10 things to watch as the series develops:
How much will Miguel Cabrera's injury affect him?
It's no secret Cabrera has battled injuries for the majority of the season, but now that the playoffs are here, those injuries are a huge concern. If Cabrera can't find a way to be effective, the Tigers could be in serious trouble.
Can Justin Verlander return to dominance?
It was a rough season for Verlander as the former MVP had his worst season since 2008. Verlander is set to start Game 2 of the ALDS, and the Tigers need him to be the ace they know he can be.
Will Victor Martinez catch a game in the series?
With Cabrera ailing, there has been talk of moving him to DH and having Martinez catch a game. If it helps Cabrera's bat, the move may be worth it.
Jhonny Peralta's impact
After missing most of the last two months while on suspension, Peralta returned last week in Miami. It'll be interesting to see if he can contribute anything on offense or defense as he is expected to play in left field.
Can the top of the lineup continue to get on base consistently?
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter have been excellent table-setters for the big bats in the lineup. If Cabrera and Prince Fielder are going to have an impact, they'll need guys on base in front of them.
Will the layoff hurt the team?
When Game 1 starts Friday night, the Tigers will have been off for five days. On top of traveling to the West Coast, having nearly a week off could be a problem.
The Tigers' starting pitching was among the best in baseball this season. However, as seen in last year's playoffs, if the bullpen struggles it won't matter how good the starters perform.
Can Max Scherzer handle being the number one pitcher in the playoffs?
Scherzer's regular season was Cy Young-worthy, but pitching in the first and potential last game of a series is a whole different animal.
Which bench player makes an impact?
As loaded as the starting lineup is, every playoff team needs contributions from the bench. In last year's matchup, it was Don Kelly who came through in the clutch; either Kelly or another bench player need to do the same this year.
How will the Tigers handle opening on the road?
The Tigers were an impressive 51-30 at home, but 42-39 on the road. Last season, they opened at home against the A's and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series. With Oakland having home-field advantage, the Tigers could benefit from a quick start on the road.
Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has followed the Detroit Tigers his entire life. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.
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