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Building Tigers was a year-by-year process


Building Tigers was a year-by-year process

DETROIT (AP) When Dave Dombrowski took over as Detroit's team president for the 2002 season, the Tigers immediately lost 106 games. The following year was an even bigger disappointment: a 43-119 mark among the worst in baseball history.

A decade after Dombrowski was hired, pretty much everything has changed at Comerica Park. The Tigers are headed to the World Series for the second time in seven seasons - a glamour team in the heart of blue-collar Detroit. You could make an argument that the Tigers now have the best pitcher in baseball and the best hitter.

How did this franchise's fortunes change so drastically? It didn't happen overnight. Here's a look at how the Tigers acquired each player on their postseason roster:


After 225 losses in two years, the Tigers picked second in the draft in 2004. San Diego selected Matt Bush at No. 1, and Detroit took Justin Verlander.

``Greg Smith was our scouting director, and we had some guys that were cross-checkers there that were very adamant that he was the best pitcher, best player in the country,'' Dombrowski said. ``There were a lot of good players that year - Jered Weaver was there, Stephen Drew was there, Jeff Niemann was there.''

The draft is an inexact science, but the Tigers landed exactly the type of player they needed - a franchise pitcher who would become a foundation for everything the team is accomplishing now.


With nowhere to go but up, the Tigers won 72 games in 2004 and 71 the following season. Then Dombrowski brought in Jim Leyland to replace Alan Trammell as manager. Detroit also signed Ramon Santiago as a minor league free agent that offseason, bringing the infielder back for a second tour of duty with the Tigers. The team was clearly making strides, but not many could have foreseen how big a step the Tigers were about to take.


In Leyland's first season, Detroit won 95 games and took the AL pennant before losing in the World Series to St. Louis. Although Verlander was a major contributor on that team, the rest of the roster was built around veterans like Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. There was a buzz surrounding baseball again in Detroit - the only question was how long it would last.

``You're at different phases in what you're doing,'' Dombrowski said. ``At that time, you were trying to add talent to get you over the hump and keep you that way.''


The Tigers slipped to 88 wins, but for the franchise's long-term prospects, it was another productive year. Detroit drafted Rick Porcello in the first round and also landed Danny Worth in the second. Porcello has been in the starting rotation since 2009, and Worth is a backup infielder.

Detroit also signed outfielder Avisail Garcia as an undrafted free agent, and he made it to the big leagues late this season.

But those moves paled in comparison to the deal Dombrowski pulled off in December `07, when he sent Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and Dallas Trahern to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

``I'm actually surprised that a couple of the guys we gave up didn't end up to be star-type players. They're playing in the big leagues, but they're not the All-Star capabilities, because that's what we thought we were giving up at the time,'' Dombrowski said. ``But we also knew we were getting somebody that was an All-Star player, young, and still had his prime ahead of him.''

Did he ever. This year Cabrera became baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years.


The Tigers quickly locked Cabrera up with a contract extension through 2015, but his first season with the team was a step back. Detroit went 74-88, not exactly an encouraging sign for a team that had just added an expensive star. The Tigers did draft Alex Avila and Andy Dirks that year. Avila now looks like the team's catcher for the foreseeable future, and Dirks has made a nice contribution in the outfield.


Detroit signed Don Kelly as a minor league free agent before the 2009 season, and the utilityman became a favorite of Leyland's. The Tigers had a good season but still fell short, losing an excruciating one-game playoff at Minnesota for the AL Central title.

Then Dombrowski took a bit of a risk by trading fan favorite Curtis Granderson and pitcher Edwin Jackson as part of a three-team deal with the New York Yankees and Arizona. In return, the Tigers acquired Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth.

The trade certainly paid dividends this year. Scherzer was terrific down the stretch in the regular season, finishing second in the majors behind Verlander in strikeouts. Jackson also had an impressive year in center field - Granderson's old position. Coke came through with a couple saves in the AL championship series.

``There's a lot of people in that trade, so it's hard to keep up with everybody,'' Scherzer said. ``Really, once I got traded over to Detroit, it has been a great home for me. ... And to be a part of something special here is great.''


The Tigers signed closer Jose Valverde before the season, and although they didn't make the postseason, they also drafted Drew Smyly, who has split time this year between the rotation and bullpen. In the middle of the 2010 season, Detroit acquired shortstop Jhonny Peralta and cash from Cleveland for Giovanni Soto.

After the season, Dombrowski made several moves. He signed Al Alburquerque, a relatively unknown reliever who has given Detroit quality innings. He also added Joaquin Benoit to bolster the bullpen. Victor Martinez was signed to become the team's designated hitter.


Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games, thanks in part to another remarkable trade at midseason. The Tigers acquired Doug Fister and David Pauley from Seattle for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin. Fister went 8-1 after joining the Tigers in 2011 and remains a crucial part of the starting rotation.

Detroit also quietly acquired Delmon Young from Minnesota for Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros. Young, the team's DH, was this year's ALCS MVP.

``He got hot again this year at the right time for us,'' Leyland said. ``And, you know, he stepped it up under the big lights. Not that they are not bright all year, but they are a little brighter this time of year.''

After losing in the 2011 ALCS, the Tigers signed reliever Octavio Dotel and backup catcher Gerald Laird. They also signed minor league free agent Quintin Berry, who has been a pleasant surprise in the outfield this year with his speed and energy.


What began as a quiet offseason took a turn for the worse when Martinez hurt his knee in January. He hasn't played at all this year, but Detroit didn't stand pat after losing him. The Tigers instead acted boldly, signing slugging first baseman Prince Fielder to a $214 million, nine-year contract.

It was the ultimate win-now move - owner Mike Ilitch opening his wallet to make a run at a World Series title that's now four victories away.

When Detroit was in the thick of a tight division race with the Chicago White Sox, Dombrowski gambled again, sending top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to the Marlins along with Rob Brantley and Brian Flynn for pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante. Sanchez held the Yankees scoreless in Game 2 of the ALCS. Infante, who was also on Detroit's 2006 pennant-winning team, has fit in well.

``There's no question that we've got an owner that's extremely supportive, and we're able to do things in free agency that maybe other clubs or we have not done in the past,'' Dombrowski said. ``You don't leave any stone unturned, and you're being aggressive everywhere you can.

``It is a combination of those factors,'' he said. ``It's your home-grown talent, it's free agency, it's trades.''

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

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Turner, Adams power Nats over Giants to end 4-game skid

SAN FRANCISCO -- Trea Turner got five hits, Matt Adams homered and drove in six runs, and the Washington Nationals broke out of their offensive funk in a big way, routing the San Francisco Giants 15-2 Wednesday to end a four-game losing streak.

The Nationals had totaled just eight runs during their skid. Andrew Stevenson had two doubles, two singles and four RBIs as Washington set season highs for runs and hits (18).

Manager Dave Martinez's ballclub has been stunted by a rash of injuries this season but salvaged the final game of the three-game series at AT&T Park series to end a rough 4-5 road trip. Max Scherzer (5-1) did his part, striking out 10 in six innings.

Turner came into the game batting .232, and the leadoff man's slow start had contributed to the Nationals' struggles. He raised his batting average 35 points, tying a career high for hits in a game. He also scored twice, drove in two runs and stole his 10th base this season.

Adams matched his career best for RBIs. He singled as part of a three-run first, put the Nationals up 6-1 with a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija (1-1) in the fourth and added a two-run single in the eighth.

The Nationals scored 14 of their 15 runs with two outs.

Scherzer earned his fourth consecutive win, all of them coming after a Washington loss. He allowed two runs and five hits, and reached double figures in strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts this season.

Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval each two hits apiece for the Giants.

Samardzija labored through a 30-pitch first inning and was done after retiring 11 batters. He gave up six runs on eight hits with three walks.


Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Howie Kendrick were given the day off.

Giants: Mac Williamson was a late scratch because of neck stiffness, one day after stumbling over the bullpen pitching mound and crashing into a low fence while chasing a foul ball. ... RHP Chris Stratton was placed on the paternity list. ... RHP Roberto Gomez was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.


Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97 ERA) pitches against the Diamondbacks on Friday in Washington. He has yielded six earned runs and three homers over his last 13 innings.

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (0-3, 4.98) faces the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park on Friday night. Holland is winless in two career starts against the Dodgers.

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3


Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mac Williamson had to dust himself off after crashing into a low padded wall near the stands in left field while chasing a foul ball.

More frustrated than hurt, Williamson took it out on Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark a few moments later after undergoing a series of concussion tests in the dugout.

Williamson homered for the second straight night and third in five games, hitting a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning to lead San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

"I got pretty lucky," Williamson said. "I felt fine then and I feel fine now. I'm sure once the adrenalin wears off later tonight, tomorrow we'll see how the body feels. I'm sure I'll be a little sore."

Brandon Belt hit his fifth home run in six games, Joe Panik added three hits and scored twice, and the Giants won their third straight and fourth in the last five.

One night after hitting a 464-foot homer in the series opener, Williamson hit a first-pitch solo shot to center off Roark with two outs in the sixth inning that bounced off the top of the wall and broke a 3-all tie. It wasn't as far as Monday's clout -- this one went 423 feet -- but was just as pivotal for the Giants.

"We've talked about what a shot in the arm he's been and he's more than that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again tonight. Good for him because he's worked hard at it."

Williamson's deciding home run came one inning after he stumbled over the bullpen mound in foul territory and crashed into a low wall near the stands while trying to chase down Bryce Harper's foul ball. Williamson stayed down briefly as team trainers rushed out before getting to his feet.

"I tried to roll my neck a little bit and my head down a little bit when I started going down," Williamson said. "I think that helped break my fall. I was just a little frustrated I didn't come up with the play. I had it in my glove and it came out."

Belt hit a two-run shot off Roark (1-2) in the third.

Michael Taylor had a three-run homer for Washington, which has lost four straight and 14 of 20 since opening the season 4-0.

"It seems like that sixth inning's been biting us in the rear as of late," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats. We just can't get the big hit with people on base."

Reyes Moronta (1-0) retired six batters for his first career win. Sam Dyson pitched one inning and Hunter Strickland worked the ninth for his fifth save.

The Giants got a run off Roark in the first but left the bases loaded when Evan Longoria struck out looking to end the inning. Belt homered on a 3-2 pitch from Roark in the second to make it 3-0.

Washington tied it on Taylor's three-run homer off starter Ty Blach in the third. Ryan Zimmerman walked and Moises Sierra singled before Taylor's deep drive into the right-field stands.

Roark went into the game 6-0 in seven career games against San Francisco but couldn't find a rhythm this time. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.


Panik hit a soft comebacker to Roark in the fifth that glanced off the pitcher's glove then bounced up on the top of his cap before falling to the turf. Roark initially couldn't locate the ball but found it in time to throw to first for the out.


Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. "That was a really gutty effort that he gave us," Bochy said.


Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.


Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.