Tigers finish off sweep of Yankees to advance to World Series

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We know one team who will still be alive next Wednesday.

Finishing off a thoroughly dominating performance, the Tigers topped the Yankees 8-1 at Comerica Park today to sweep the ALCS in four games and advance to the World Series.

CC Sabathia is a pretty good pitcher to have on your side facing elimination, but he just didn’t have it today. The big southpaw didn’t get much help from his defense, especially in the third inning, but he gave up six runs (five earned) on 11 hits and two walks over just 3 2/3 innings. This included a pair of two-run homers by Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta in the bottom of the fourth inning. Not a good time for Sabathia’s shortest outing of the season.

While Sabathia struggled, Max Scherzer was dominant over his 5 2/3 innings of work. He didn’t allow a hit until the top of the sixth inning and struck out 10. The Tigers pounded out 16 hits on the day, just six less than the Yankees had for the entire series. Peralta socked a pair of homers while seven out of the nine hitters in Jim Leyland’s lineup had at least two hits.

The pathetic output from the Yankees’ lineup has naturally received much of the attention nationally, but the Tigers’ rotation deserves plenty of credit for shutting them down. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez combined to allow just two runs over 27 1/3 innings during the series. That’s a 0.66 ERA.

While things got a little interesting in Game 1, this was one of the more dominating series victories you’ll see. The Tigers are the fifth team in MLB history to sweep a best-of-seven series while never trailing and the first to do it since the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. This is the first time the Yankees have been swept in a seven-game series since the 1976 World Series against the Reds. They were swept in three games by the Royals in the 1980 ALCS.

The Tigers will have a little while to rest before Game 1 of the World Series next Wednesday night. They’ll start the series on the road and will meet either the Cardinals or the Giants.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.