by Johnny Cleveland

Well, we sure pissed ourselves into a corner with our late season slump but everyone's record is the same starting today. And regardless of what anyone says, yes, we Tiger fans are just happy to be here. So here is the UMtailgate version of the preview of our series with the Bronx Bastards. Since Leyland got us here and has kept us smoking all the way until October, we rank each matchup/position with the amount of anxiety each causes us. The rankings are in packs of Marlboro Reds, the choice of our favorite manager. One pack = low stress. Four packs = high stress.

Corner Infielders (aka White Boyz) 

The corners are held down by our only position Caucasians. Our third basemen is one of the best athletes in all professional sports, B. Inge. On the other hand our first baseman, Sean Casey, is the worst athlete in all of sports. Together they are probably our most consistent everyday players as far as both fielding and hitting go. Neither will dazzle at the dish but I look for Casey to have a nice average in Oct. Inge will need to keep up his highlight reel defense for us to have a chance, and would someone please recognize this guy deserves a gold glove. I am confident they will have a great series for us.

Middle Infielders (aka Spanish Main)

I obviously include Guillen and Polanco in this but also add Pudge and backups Infante and Santiago. Spanish Main makes up the "main" production in the middle of our lineup, and our all Hispanic, hence the nickname. With Placido back we gain some much needed consistency in our lineup. I think Guillen will regain his defensive focus in October and hope he can swing a clutch bat. Pudge is the essence of a Detroit Captain; see Yzermen, Billups, Gibson, Isiah or Joe, and he also has the utmost desire to bring home a championship. We will go as far as he can push us, look for him to beat out an infield hit to give us a spark early in the series. Omar and Ramon should play minimal roles but if Thames is not 100% Infante may provide us an extra lead off hitter at the bottom of the lineup. I don't think this group will be intimidated by the Yanks, but they must produce at the plate.

Outfielders (aka Gangsta Row) 

Yes they have hit the dramatic blasts that have brought us back all season, but their free swinging at bats must be curtailed in the playoffs. Curtis absolutely must get on base regularly and also must be able to sacrifice/hit & run when necessary. Granderson is very young and has yet to be consistent in the aforementioned areas, maybe this will be his coming out party, lets hope so. Defensively Grandy and Monroe are fine, if we can keep the strikeouts and shallow pop ups to a minimum, we have more than a chance. Ditto for Thames if he is healthy enough to DH, hopefully he is feeling better cuz we need his pop in the lineup, especially if we want to keep pace with the run producing machine that is the Yankees.

Magglio (Hair Nation) 

He didn't really fit in to any other group so he gets his own. Mags is what he is and I suspect he will continue to be solid throughout the playoffs. Some timely big hits will be needed and he will be solid with the glove. He will not break his trot running the bases or running down fly balls, but like I said, Mags is what he is.

Pitchers (Evaluated Individually)

(I will save evaluation of the starters until it is their time to pitch. So I give you the pitchers that could appear tonight)

1. Nate Robertson (Game 1 Starter)

"Gum Boy" actually has had a tremendous season. Although only 13-13 he was plagued with absolutely shitty run support throughoutthe first half of the season and has had several quality no decisions and late losses as well. I am a little nervous throwing him to the dogs in game one at "the stadium" but if he can get through the early nerves, he should be solid.

2. Wilfredo Lodezma 

Probably pitching the best of all our staff at this point but looks to be destined for long-term relief in this series. Obviously long relief is a sign of an early deficit and one we hope not to face, however Wil is poised to stop the bleeding until our bats catch up and keep us in the game.

3. Grilli and Miner

Truthfully both are decent Righties out the pen, so the three pack stress level is not really for their ability, but if you see them coming out tonight we are probably in trouble. Unless we need one out in a situational at bat against a right handed hitter, they probably will stay in the bullpen for game 1.

4. Jamie Walker 

Basically the same as Grilli and Miner, except will be used to get out 1 or 2 lefties at the most.

4. Joel Zumaya 

Can have some control issues if he is too hyped up, but he gets us hyped up as well. If you see him tonight it should say we are still in the game late. I doubt skip will ask him to go a full two but a great four or five out outing tonight would be a great sign from our young fireballer.

5. Fernando Rodney 

Surely he will work slow in the eighth and walk a couple. This is when you go get the extra pack stashed away. A great sign if he's finishing the eighth but don't expect to be stress free, not the time to quit smoking.

6. Todd Jones

This is double stress time. First of all we are probably about to take the series lead if Jonesie is in there, second of all you know he's going make it interesting down right blood boiling nerve racking nuts. Chain smoke for Jimmy since he's gotta watch from the dugout, but lets hope his second half consistency brings home game one in the ninth.