September 27, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul

Tigers could yet capture home field for first round

Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer's Cy Young credentials include 21-3 mark and 240 strikeouts. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

The Tigers started the postseason at home last year in an odd scheduling quirk that saw the teams with the worst records host Games 1 and 2.

It played into their hands as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Aís and eventually held them off, thanks to Justin Verlanderís clutch masterpiece in Game 5.

Major League Baseball did that to eliminate a travel day, as it squeezed in the new, one-game wild-card playoff.

Well, all is right with the world again. Weíre back to the 2-2-1 format, with the best seed at home the first two games and, if necessary, a do-or-die Game 5.

And, believe it or not, the Tigers still have a chance to earn home-field advantage in the first round.

Thanks to a mini hiccup the last two days by the Aís, the Tigers are two games out of home-field.

The Tigers are one game behind the Aís overall, but need to finish ahead of Oakland since the first tiebreaker is head-to-head (4-3).

The Tigers finish the season against the Marlins, who are pitching three youngsters.

The Aís get three on the road against the Mariners, who have won 10 of 16 over Oakland. Plus, Seattle is pitching Felix Hernandez and impressive prospect James Paxton.

So, if the Tigers sweep and the Aís lose two of three, or if the Tigers take two of three and the Aís get swept, the American League Division Series would start in Detroit.

Cabrera should take a seat

While thereís still something at stake for the Tigers, Miguel Cabreraís regular season should be over.

The Tigers slugger has admirably played through a bevy of injuries since early July without a stint on the disabled list.

But the time has come to pat him on the rump, thank him for his countless contributions and sit his fragile body down.

While home-field advantage is important, itís not nearly as important as a healthy Cabrera on the field in the postseason.

With the ALDS not starting until Friday, Oct. 4, Cabrera could have a full seven days off, hardly enough time to heal all thatís ailing him, but probably not enough to risk significantly throwing off his timing, either.

The Tigers can win a playoff series without home-field advantage. Theyíve done it before.

They almost certainly canít win a playoff series without Cabrera.

Scouting the awards

Cabrerahas faded down the stretch in September ó in part because of injuries ó which might put the MVP award back in play.

Angels center fielder Mike Trout has had a great September to give the 30 MVP voters a little something to think about before submitting their ballots Sunday.

In fact, all four major awards feature good competition.

■For MVP, itís Cabrera-Trout, Part II. Cabrera still probably wins, given his league-leading OPS, another batting crown and possibly another RBI title ... and the fact his team, unlike Troutís, is playoff-bound.

■For Cy Young, itís Max Scherzer, at 21-3 with an outstanding FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which measures only things within a pitcherís control: strikeouts, walks and homers. His main competition is Rangers ace Yu Darvish, whoís been for the most part brilliant, but hasnít had Scherzerís run support; and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners.

■For rookie of the year, we have yet another two-horse race ó Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who has been stunning with the glove and has hit better than expected; and Rays outfielder Wil Myers, who has been the better run producer, but hasnít played as many games. Itís a tough one.

■For manager of the year, three are squarely in the mix ó John Farrell, who took over a Red Sox team in disarray and led them, likely, to the ALís best record; Terry Francona, whoís done amazing work with a young bunch of Indians; and Bob Melvin, who has his low-budget Aís back atop the AL West again. Flip a coin.

Striking up a record

With Scherzerís performance Wednesday against the Twins, the Tigers continued to march toward a major league record.

By the end of the night Friday, itís likely no team in history will have registered as many strikeouts from its pitchers as the 2013 Tigers.

Scherzerís 10 strikeouts gave the Tigers 1,397, seven behind the 2003 Cubs for the most in history. That team was led by Kerry Woodand Mark Prior, while the Tigers are paced by Scherzer (240), Verlander (207) and Anibal Sanchez, who needs six Saturday to give the Tigers three starters over 200. The other two Tigers starters, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello, have set career highs in strikeouts.

Between the five, they have 20 games of 10 strikeouts or more.

But the relievers have pitched in, too. Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon and Darin Downs all have more strikeouts than innings pitched.

tpaul@detroitnews.com
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