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Tigers celebrate win with dance similar to haka

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    The Detroit Tigers celebrate after beating the Oakland Athletics 3-0 in to win Game 5 of an American League baseball division series in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

OAKLAND, Calif. >> That loud postgame chant performed by the Detroit Tigers might’ve looked familiar — to international rugby fans, that is.

After beating Oakland in the deciding Game 5 of the AL division series Thursday night, the Tigers came together and formed a circle in the middle of the diamond. They squatted down, put their hands to their heads and then jumped up, arms raised high to the sky.

It’s a chant reminiscent of the Haka dance of New Zealand’s rugby team.

“I guess it’s called ‘Turn Up.’ You gotta turn it up,” catcher Alex Avila said. “It’s just something that we’ve been doing. We started doing that about a month ago.”

The Haka is a traditional ancestral war cry of the Maori, and it is performed before matches by New Zealand’s national rugby team, known as the All-Blacks for their uniforms.

Avila said the Tigers’ chant has become a fun and routine way for players to fire each other up, in unison. Whenever the team feels it necessary.

On the field or in the clubhouse.

First-year Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter was right in the middle of it all getting things started — just one way he has influenced his new club in 2013.

“We were trying to start getting ourselves going down the stretch, trying to clinch the division and it just kind of started,” Avila said. “You gotta celebrate.”


DOMBROWSKI’S GREEN TIE: It was no coincidence Dave Dombrowski wore the wrong colors for Detroit’s Game 5 clincher at Oakland.

The Tigers’ general manager sported a green tie — that’s an A’s color — with his silver sport jacket. It was the very same tie he wore when the Tigers defeated the Athletics at Comerica Park in late August, Detroit’s lone victory during that four-game series.

“When we played them earlier in the year at our place I wore the outfit,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not that superstitious, anyway.”

Well, maybe just a little bit.

He did change up his regular running route along the San Francisco waterfront this time from when the Tigers lost to the Giants in a four-game World Series sweep last fall.


SLIGHT UPTICK: TBS has averaged a 2.5 rating and 3.89 million viewers for 18 telecasts during the wild-card round and division series.

The rating was up 4 percent from a 2.4 last year and the households up 6 percent from 3,633,000 last year.

St. Louis’ Game 5 win over Pittsburgh drew 6.1 million viewers and Detroit’s fifth-game victory over Oakland drew 5.5 million. In the wild-card round, 4.7 million saw Tampa Bay beat Cleveland and 4.6 million watched Pittsburgh defeat Cincinnati.


THE BIG FOUR: After three teams among baseball’s lowest spenders reached the playoffs, it’s the big-money clubs on to the championship series in each league — Boston vs. Detroit and the Los Angeles Dodgers against St. Louis.

Once his team is out of it, A’s manager Billy Beane roots for the large markets.

“I happen to think over the course of the season, the two best teams are playing the LCS. I think Detroit and Boston, in my mind, represent the two best teams,” Beane said a day after the Tigers won in Oakland. “I think we were one of the best teams. This is going to be a great matchup.”

Beane was thrilled to see three teams near the bottom — Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay — in the playoffs.

“It made for a different look in the postseason. My suspicion is that particularly for a club like Pittsburgh and Tampa, they’re really good at what they do and will be knocking on the door again next year,” Beane said. “And then you’ve got four traditional powers in the final four, which is great, too. If we get knocked out, I root for the biggest teams.”


TUTOR TOUTS: Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire thought former pupil Matt Carpenter looked good at the plate in the Cardinals’ clinching Game 5 of the NL division series.

“He’s too good a hitter to be down,” McGwire said. “He can work a count with the best of them. it’s almost like he’s been playing this game for 15-20 years in the big leagues.”

The St. Louis leadoff man had a breakout season, leading the majors in runs, hits, doubles and multihit games in addition to quickly settling in at a new defensive spot — second base. He entered the NLCS in a prolonged slump, going 1 for 29 counting 10 at-bats to end the season.

Manager Mike Matheny has been saying Carpenter’s been pressing.

“This is a fresh start, new series,” Carpenter said. “I’m looking forward to getting it going.”


ONE THOUGHT SAYS IT ALL: Tigers manager Jim Leyland and his players seem to have last year’s World Series disappointment locked into their minds this postseason.

Three different times, Leyland called last year’s sweep against the San Francisco Giants an embarrassment.

“I will say this, we were embarrassed last year in the World Series,” he said. “When you lose four straight, it’s not good. So we were embarrassed a little bit. We’d like to stretch it out a little bit.

“I think there is some incentive there,” he said. “But I think a lot of times that’s just a normal thing to say, really, sometimes. But I think in our case last year we got swept. And we didn’t even get to six games or five games. And that was a little bit embarrassing.”

Outfielder Torii Hunter was with the Los Angeles Angels last year. He signed as a free agent during the offseason and has heard his teammates bring up last fall a few times, too.

“You hear the chatter every once in a while about what happened last year,” he said. “I think the eight days off they had before the World Series messed them up. And, let me tell you, I am here to tell you it does mess you up. These guys, they have a lot to prove. They want to come in and show people they’re still the best team. They’re still the (AL) champs.”


SOAKING IT IN: Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander can sit back, watch and enjoy the first two games after extending his team’s season with eight shutout innings in the deciding Game 5 against Oakland.

Sitting at a table and speaking with the media, the ace right-hander joked that he’ll be able to get plenty of rest after his team flew cross country on Friday.

“If you have to get yourselves ready for this, you have no reason being here. This is the playoffs,” he said, breaking into a weary smile. “It’s easy for me to say that, though, I’ll probably be taking a nap or two. I won’t be doing much the first couple of games here.”

While he’s waiting for his turn to start Game 3 on Tuesday in Detroit, Verlander is looking forward to his first Fenway Park playoff experience.

“I’m excited to watch the first couple of games here. I’ve also never been to a playoff game in Fenway,” he said. “I’ve never seen the atmosphere. I don’t know if it can be any better or louder than Oakland, but I’m sure it’ll be great.”

But it could be a lot different for him if the teams return to Fenway next weekend.

If the series goes seven, he’s in line to start another winner-take-all game.

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