Initially, the 1987 Tigers stunk; on May 11, they were 11-19, in sixth place (out of seven), 9 1/2 games off the pace. From that date, however, they went 87-45, a .659 clip, by far the best in baseball. They had a budding rivalry with their neighbors to the north, the Toronto Blue Jays. The season entered its final month with the two clubs in a fierce fight for the division.
Tiger manager Sparky Anderson reminded people that “We’re a lot better than we were when we won it all in ’84. For one thing, we have better starting pitchers. In 1984, my #3 guy was Milt Wilcox, and he didn’t have a single complete game all year.” This was an era before the complete game went the way of the fax machine. “My #4 guy in 1984? I have a hard time remembering him.” It was actually the very forgettable Juan Berenguer. The 1987 Tiger rotation featured Jack Morris, Walt Terrell, and Frank Tanana, who combined for 50 wins that year. A very good starting staff was made great by the August 12 acquisition of Doyle Alexander, who went 9-0 for the Tigers in ’87. (Detroit gave up minor-league pitching prospect John Smoltz in the deal with the Atlanta Braves.)
On Thursday, September 24, Detroit headed to Toronto for a four-game set.