DETROIT — It is not over yet.
Moments after the Tigers’ latest disorienting one-run loss in Game 5 of the AL championship series Thursday night, general manager Dave Dombrowski voiced that hope to a passerby outside his Comerica Park suite.
“See you here next Wednesday,” he said.
Wednesday is the start of the World Series. For at least one more day, the Tigers’ championship dream lives on.
Trailing the best-of-seven series three games to two, Detroit’s pennant defense now rests on winning back-to-back elimination games today and Sunday at Fenway Park.
History in the 101-year-old bandbox will not be on their side. Teams in Boston’s situation — a 3-2 championship series perch and home-field advantage — head to the Fall Classic more than 75 percent of the time (13-4) while the Red Sox were a league-best 53-28 at Fenway Park during the regular season.
Yet in a series overflowing with drama, the Tigers are confident there is one more big twist left.
“If you had a tiger, and he was backed in a corner, he couldn’t go left, he couldn’t go right, he couldn’t go behind him, what’s he going to do?” outfielder Torii Hunter said. “Fight through. That’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s what Tigers do. ... The pressure is on them to hold us back.
“We’re going to fight, we’re going to have fun, we’re going to go all out. When we play looser, we’re a really good ballclub. It’s an uphill battle, but I think it’s good for us.”
The Tigers’ best hope, of course, is their pitching. Detroit’s fate is in the hands of its top two starters — and, possibly, the best two in the AL.
Cy Young Award favorite and 21-game winner Max Scherzer, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in Game 2, will start today opposite Boston’s Clay Buchholz.
Former MVP — and resident big-game star — Justin Verlander is in wait for Game 7. In their two starts this series, Scherzer and Verlander combined to hold the Sox to two runs on six hits and struck out 23 over 15 innings.
“Scherzer and Verlander going, we feel really confident,” Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit said.
That the Tigers lost both starts the co-aces pitched underscores the other issues the club is facing. Among them: The rugged bullpen, Prince Fielder’s glaring 65-at-bat stretch without a postseason RBI stalling a hot-and-cold lineup, Miguel Cabrera’s mounting physical ailments, and the uncertain status of catcher Alex Avila.
Avila left Game 5 early after spraining his left knee in a jarring collision with Boston’s David Ross at home plate and later taking a foul ball off the mask. Avila, who has a history of concussions, traveled with the team to Boston but was still sore Friday.
If Avila is out, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he would consider playing former catcher-turned-DH Victor Martinez behind the plate, though the safe money remains on backup catcher Brayan Pena.
“It will be a big factor, whether [Avila] plays or not,” Leyland said. “It will obviously affect us some.”
Otherwise, Leyland said he is likely to go with the same restructured lineup from Games 4 and 5, which includes Hunter leading off, Fielder batting third, Austin Jackson eighth, and Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
For the Tigers today, it is now or next year.
“We have to win one game,” Leyland said. “That’s obvious. We have to win one game, and then take it from there.”