Double trouble: Too many Tigers mistakes

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
12:25
AM ET
Now this was a high-octane postseason game, with baserunners all over the place, collisions at home plate, one all-time "Did you see that!?!" play by Jose Iglesias, bullpen maneuverings, subs contributing, superstars struggling ... and double plays.

Oh, those double plays. Tigers fans will have nightmares about those double plays.

Third inning, runners at first and second, one out, Brayan Pena hits for the injured Alex Avila: 1-6-3.

Sixth inning, runners at first and second, one out, Austin Jackson, who had reached base in six straight plate appearances, batting: 5-4-3.

Seventh inning, runners at first and third, no outs, Miguel Cabrera up as the go-ahead run, chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" raining from the crowd: 4-3, Dustin Pedroia stepping on the second-base bag and easily doubling up Cabrera, a run scoring but a rally dying.

That was it for the Tigers. Craig Breslow relieved Junichi Tazawa and retired Prince Fielder and then Victor Martinez leading off the eighth. Koji Uehara came on and struck out Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante in the eighth on two cruel splitters and then cruising through ninth with two routine fly balls and a pop fly.

Final score: Boston 4, Detroit 3. The series heads back to Boston with the Red Sox one victory away from the World Series.

Jim Leyland had said before the game that it was probably a little more important game for the Tigers, because you don’t want to head back to Fenway needing to win two games on the road. But you could easily have made the other argument: You don’t want to head back to Fenway down 3 games to 2, needing to beat Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, even if you are playing at home.

That’s why I felt this game had a little more urgency for the Red Sox. Yes, they hit a little better at home, where they are masters at smacking doubles off the Green Monster, but all three pitching matchups arguably favored the Tigers, especially considering Anibal Sanchez's six no-hit innings in the first game of this series and Verlander's three superlative efforts so far in the postseason.

Besides the double plays, however, the Tigers made the most mistakes in this game and it cost them. In the first inning, Jonny Gomes threw out Cabrera and the proverbial piano on his back by about 15 feet for the third out. Third-base coach Tom Brookens initially windmilled Cabrera home but put up a late stop sign -- although in this image, it appears Cabrera may have been looking down at the bag when Brookens held up his hands. Hard to stop a locomotive when it's rolling downhill. Considering Cabrera wasn’t exactly Herb Washington before his injuries, not the best "Go ... no, stop!" decision by Brookens.

Boston’s three-run second inning included a leadoff home run from Mike Napoli, but Cabrera’s error on a routine Gomes grounder helped lead to an unearned run. In the third, Sanchez threw a wild pitch with two outs, allowing Napoli to score.

The Tigers have to be kicking themselves. With two teams as evenly matched as these, you can't afford those mistakes. This game perfectly illuminated Detroit's two biggest disadvantages heading into the series: Defense and team speed. As great as Cabrera is at the plate, his weaknesses in those areas cost the Tigers two runs in this game (and that doesn't include his double play).

The other edge the Red Sox had was late-game bullpen, particularly Uehara. He's pitched in four games in this series without allowing a run so far, picking up a win and two saves -- of four outs and five outs -- in Boston's three one-run victories. No, getting five outs won't exactly erase memories of Rollie Fingers or even the six-out saves Joe Torre used to routinely depend on Mariano Rivera for, but in this day, it qualifies as a near-Herculean effort by Uehara. Meanwhile, the Tigers bullpen blew that 5-1 lead in Game 2.

Really, the Red Sox are up 3 games to 2 thanks to big swings of the bat from David Ortiz in Game 2 and Napoli in Game 3 and one big inning in this game.

Don't count out the Tigers, not with Scherzer and Verlander on the hill. But with Fielder struggling (1-for-4 in this game, still without an RBI this postseason and just one double in 10 games) and Cabrera well below 100 percent, Leyland may be right: It's going to be tough for the Tigers to win two at Fenway.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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