- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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As punchless as the Tigers looked in San Francisco, keep in mind they had a great home record in the regular season. Their 12-win spread at home versus road tied the Cardinals for biggest in the majors. They're 4-0 at home in the postseason. Miguel Cabrera hit .332/.403/.692 at home with 28 of his 44 home runs versus .327/.384/.529. Prince Fielder hit 18 of his 30 homers at home and slugged .577 versus .483 on the road. As a team, the Tigers hit .278 with a .793 OPS at home compared to .258 with a .722 OPS on the road. Comerica Park has a reputation as a pitcher's park, but that's not really true. While there is a lot of space in center and deep right-center, it's a fair park from the lines to the alleys.
Hector Sanchez draws the start at designated hitter for the Giants, an indication of how weak their bench is. Sanchez hit .280 and has some doubles power, but drew just five walks in 227 PAs for a .295 OBP. Of course, the Tigers will move Delmon Young back to DH after two games "playing" left field. Young hit .247/.279/.370 versus right-handers, so he loses the platoon edge he had against Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner. Vogelsong had a noticeable platoon split (.653 OPS versus righties, .722 versus lefties), so I would expect him to be very careful with Fielder and go after Young if the situation permits it.
The Tigers will play their right-handed lineup, which means Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry back in the outfield. Both had two pinch-hit at-bats in San Francisco, but both obviously haven't played much in over a week, since the ALCS. They'll have to shake off the rust. Dirks has a .560 OPS in the postseason, Berry .636, so both guys need to find a way to contribute.
Getting ahead in the count is important for any pitcher, but Vogelsong has been nearly unhittable when he does so in the postseason. From ESPN Stats & Info: Opposing hitters are 2-for-34 in pitcher's counts and 3-for-36 with two strikes. If you saw Vogelsong dominate the Cardinals in the NLCS, you saw a pitcher able to get his fastball moving inside on right-handed hitters. Over his last six starts, batters are hitting just .192 in plate appearances ending with a fastball -- without a home run.
Obviously, the pressure will be on Jim Leyland to make all the right moves with his bullpen tonight. I didn't think he left Fister in too long the other night -- the advantage from going to Fister to Octavio Dotel to face Hunter Pence would have been minor -- but you obviously have less room for error down two games. Will he trust Drew Smyly again versus the Giants' lefties in the middle innings, or would he bring in Phil Coke instead of waiting to use Coke as his closer? Sanchez will hit eighth with Brandon Crawford ninth, so that will break up the Brandon Belt-Gregor Blanco-Crawford lefty trio, making it a little more difficult for the Tigers to match.
I think for the Tigers to win tonight that Fielder has to deliver. He has one extra-base in the postseason (a home run, although Coco Crisp also stole another one from him) and only three walks. He needs to be a little more patient and if that means taking your walks, you have to take your walks. Right now he's been getting himself out at times.
As punchless as the Tigers looked in San Francisco, keep in mind they had a great home record in the regular season. Their 12-win spread at home versus road tied the Cardinals for biggest in the majors.