Saturday, October 27, 2012
Don't count out Tigers just yet
By Josh Worn
On Wednesday we looked at five reasons the Tigers would win the World Series. Now, the boys from Detroit are down two games to none and spent Friday preparing for three straight games at home that, given their road struggles, have now become three must-win scenarios. So let’s take a look back at those original five reasons and evaluate what happened.
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander might not get to take the mound again this season.
1. Justin Verlander. Game 1 certainly goes to Pablo Sandoval and his three home runs, but Verlander was the author on the mound who was supposed to dominate. The narrative all night was how shocking it was to see the 2011 Cy Young and MVP winner struggle so much. It was his shortest non-rain-effected start since June 2009 and when the dust settled and all the reactions had been made, one truth stood tall: He simple didn’t deliver, and his team lost a game they were favored to win. Now with Max Scherzer officially starting Game4, the ace might not even see the mound again this season. That would surely leave a putrid taste in his mouth and in the mouths of Detroit Nation.
2. Prince Fielder. While Miguel Cabrera hasn’t done any real damage in the two games, Fielder hasn't made anyone pay either. He is 1-for-6 at the plate and has left five runners stranded. His lack of defense is mostly ignored when he’s hitting, but when he’s not, like now, the fact that he’s a one-dimensional player stands out like a caveman in a modern bank. I’ll leave with this: two games are a minute sample size, but at this point in the season every at-bat counts and Fielder is simply running out of time to stand out (in a good way).
3. Bullpen. The Tigers don’t necessarily have a great bullpen, we all know that, but they have solid arms that can shut down an offense, and for the Tigers to have any hope of putting a dent in the Giants’ plans of running away with this thing, they need to produce. So far, the collective efforts of Al Alburquerque, Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, Octavio Dotel, and Phil Coke have resulted in six innings, six hits, four runs, four walks and an inherited runner allowed to score. That’s not what anyone in Detroit is looking for. Especially since the offense has scored three runs in 18 innings.
4. Starting pitching. Verlander struggled mightily, but Doug Fister sure didn’t, and he has nothing to show for it other than a nasty lump on the right side of his head. The Tigers will have Anibal Sanchez and Scherzer going, and I don’t expect either one to struggle, but as the offense has shown thus far, the margin of error is zero. Good pitching beats good hitting, but is a non-factor if horrible hitting fits into the equation.
5. Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta and Delmont Young. In Game 1, these three were the only reason the Tigers found themselves on the scoreboard as they collectively went 5-for-12 and each scored a run. Peralta launched a two-run home run in the ninth inning to make an 8-1 game look a little bit less lopsided, and Young had a pair of hits. However, in the second game, Young’s potential RBI double in the second inning was foiled by an excellent relay throw and an ill-advised decision by Gene Lamont who gambled and sent Fielder home, thus destroying the possibility of second and third and no outs with Peralta up. Jackson reenacted his rookie and sophomore campaigns with three strikeouts, and Peralta ended the game without a hit.
After two games the Tigers have received production out of two of the five key reasons they needed to win the World Series. Given their defensive handicap, their overall offensive hibernation, and the Giants' stellar pitching, the Tigers are going to need to squeeze every drip of home-field advantage to send this back West. With Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain looming on the horizon, it could be a tall order.
However, if following the Tigers has shown me anything this season, it’s that we must expect the unexpected when it comes to this team, and hopefully their last song has not been sung.