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Rangers represent next obstacle to tired Tigers

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 8, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas - The Detroit Tigers did not get much time to enjoy their upset of the Yankees in the American League Division Series. When their 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium was complete with a strikeout of Alex Rodriguez Thursday night, they boarded a flight here.

It was not until 5:30 a.m. yesterday that the team arrived at its hotel. Then came a workout at Rangers Ballpark, an obligation that Major League Baseball would not let the Tigers break.

“I think we’re still winding down. We probably wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t mandatory, to be honest with you. I probably would have given a day off,’’ said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who sounded as tired as he looked.

Celebratory champagne aside, Leyland said his team was going through an “emotional hangover’’ after its five-game series against the Yankees.

“It was definitely a little odd, the situation we ran into,’’ said Justin Verlander, who will start tonight against Texas in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. “But that’s behind us now.’’

Leyland resisted the urge to use Verlander out of the bullpen in Game 5 against the Yankees and could reap the benefits tonight. Verlander was willing to pitch in relief, but Leyland had him throw a bullpen session before the game to prepare for a start he couldn’t be sure would happen.

Amid the celebration, Leyland found Verlander and said, “You never trust your skipper, do you?’’

“It worked out all right, didn’t it?’’ said Verlander, who is sure to be named the AL Cy Young Award winner and is one of the favorites for Most Valuable Player. “Him and I always have had that kind of relationship.’’

Verlander, 24-5 during the regular season, will be pitching on normal rest. The Rangers beat Verlander April 11, but he allowed just two runs on six hits over nine innings. He is 6-2 with a 2.31 earned run average in nine starts against Texas, 3-0, 1.29 in three starts at Rangers Ballpark.

The Tigers are not sure if they will have left fielder Delmon Young, who suffered an oblique strain on Thursday. He had three home runs in the Division Series.

“He’s being evaluated right now. Our doctors are here and they’re doing an evaluation on him. We’ll see if they have to take any further steps than just an evaluation. We’re hoping not. He actually felt better [Thursday] night, later,’’ Leyland said.

Texas will start C.J. Wilson. He was 16-7, 2.94 during the regular season but got rocked in Game 1 against the Rays in the Division Series, giving up eight runs (six earned) in five innings.

“It’s just a matter of executing my plan, getting ahead in the count. I think I was behind in the count a lot. I didn’t feel like I was at my best the other day. I feel better now,’’ Wilson said.

Wilson will be a free agent after the season and could be a target of the Yankees and the Red Sox .

“I don’t really care. I don’t really care what people talk about as far as my value is or what the number eventually turns out to be or whatever. The most important thing for me is ending this year hoisting a trophy,’’ Wilson said.

“It’s nothing other than just trying to fulfill your childhood dreams. You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get to be on a good team like this. We’re lucky to be able to go two years in a row. Some teams are there perennially. That’s what we’re trying to establish here in Texas is a team that goes every year. That’s the primary focus for me. I think I had a good body of work this season. Everything is fresh. I’m out there to win. If they asked me to pinch run, I would do that. I don’t care about anything achievement-wise right now other than winning.’’

For the first time since 2006, when the Tigers swept Oakland, no AL East team advanced to the second round. Texas beat the Yankees last season before losing to the Giants in the World Series.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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