DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers won seven consecutive games to advance to the World Series as the representative of the American League, which has won eight consecutive Series games over the last two seasons.
Once there, they will face the representative of the National League, which won 38 percent of its interleague games this year.
It will either be the New York Mets, who in the National League Championship Series will start a guy (Oliver Perez) who went 3-13 this season, or the St. Louis Cardinals who not only were swept by the Tigers this season and not only went 5-10 against the AL (despite six games with the Kansas City Royals), but also were outscored by 26 runs in those games.
The Tigers, the team who no one outside of Michigan has believed in all year, the one that lost 119 games three short seasons ago, swept the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS courtesy of a dramatic 6-3 last-at-bat victory completed when Magglio Ordonez launched a series-winning three-run homer into the pandemonium of the left-field bleachers here at Comerica Park.
Admittedly, a gag reflex kicks in when you say that the Detroit Tigers, of all teams, are an overwhelming favorite to win the World Series. But the Tigers hit, they field, they pitch (oh, do they pitch) and mainly they just keep winning, so humbling both the New York Yankees and these A's that neither could do anything but tip their caps to a vastly superior team.
"They pretty much overmatched us," the Yankees' Derek Jeter said a week ago.
"They really put it on us," Oakland's Nick Swisher said Saturday.
The Tigers haven't just won seven consecutive games, they won them by an average of 3.6 runs.
If this was just about any other team, anyone who hadn't just gone through 12 consecutive losing seasons, then they'd be viewed as a juggernaut by the rest of the country. If this was the Yankees, they'd be shredding the ticker tape and ESPN would be running nightly specials.
"Whoever they go and play in the World Series better watch out," Swisher said.
Whomever they play will arrive with credibility questions. The NL has been abysmal this season. The interleague disaster – the AL went an all-time best 154-98 – showed an extreme disparity. So bad was the NL that even Kansas City had a winning record against it.
The NL has weak pitching, sporadic hitting and an overall lack of depth.
Eight of the nine lowest-scoring teams in baseball were in the NL. Eight teams in the AL alone (despite playing superior competition) had better records than the Cardinals, who couldn't get above .500 in their own lousy division.
So pedestrian was the NL that Neifi Perez, the Tigers' utility infield who couldn't buy a single since coming to the AL, actually hit .254 for the Chicago Cubs.
All of this coming off World Series sweeps – the Chicago White Sox over the Houston Astros in 2005, the Boston Red Sox over St. Louis in 2004 – in which the talent gap was obvious.
It shouldn't be any different now. Not if Detroit plays like this, which, to put it simply, is not how you'd imagine Detroit could ever play.
The Tigers' offensive balance is stunning, their pitching dominating and their ability to find a new no-name hero each night simply frightening.
"It's somebody different every day," centerfielder Curtis Granderson said. "This is why we are successful. Game 1 it was Brandon (Inge), Game 2 it was Craig (Monroe), Game 3 it was Kenny (Rogers) and tonight it was Magglio."
Granderson didn't even get to mention ALCS Most Valuable Player Placido Polanco, who merely hit .529 during the series.
"That Polanco guy is a pain," said A's reliever Huston Street, with full respect.
The entire team is one. The NL may get all the attention the rest of the week, the New York/national hype machine will turn one of these two clubs (particularly the Mets) into an oversized powerhouse, but these are two flawed teams coming from a questionable league.
Neither team probably would have even qualified for the playoffs had they played in the American League, even with Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran.
And that was before the Mets lost Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez and were forced to pretend Oliver Perez (6.55 earned-run average) was an actual postseason starter.
A lot can change in a week, which is how long Detroit will wait to play again. But as hot as the Tigers are – they are as hot as they were when they started the season 40 games above .500 – this isn't about momentum.
"Take momentum and shove it," said closer Todd Jones. "I'd rather have good starting pitching. And we have great starting pitching."
And an overmatched opponent on its way to Detroit .