Commentary

Horrible Game 5 for Miguel Cabrera

The reigning MVP responsible for some terrible plays in Tigers' loss to Red Sox

Updated: October 18, 2013, 9:30 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- Down three games to two with the American League Championship Series heading back to Boston, Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter summed up his team's situation like this:

"If you're a tiger and he's backed in a corner and he can't go left and he can't go right and he can't go behind, what's he going to do? He's going to fight through," Hunter said after Detroit's 4-3 Game 5 loss Thursday night. "And that's what we're going to do. That's what tigers do. Our backs are against the wall and we can't go left and we can't go right, so we're going to fight through.

"I like being down 3-2. It feels good. The pressure is on those guys, not us."

[+] EnlargeMiguel Cabrera
Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesIn addition to getting thrown out at home and grounding into a double play, Cabrera made an error.

Well, that's putting a rather positive spin on the situation. But the Tigers certainly are looking good on the mound with probable American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer starting Game 6 and 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, who has allowed just one run in the past month, ready if there is a Game 7.

The problem is their position players aren't looking so promising.

Miguel Cabrera is the likely MVP for the second consecutive season, but he is still struggling with a variety of injuries and had a horrible Game 5. He ended the first inning when he was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a single, even though left fielder Jonny Gomes had the ball in his glove about the same time Cabrera rounded third base. He made a costly error the next inning when he let a routine grounder get past him, helping the Red Sox score three runs. He struck out. And he also grounded into a double play when the Tigers appeared to be rallying in the seventh inning.

While he did hit a home run in Game 5 of the division series and another in Game 2 of this ALCS, his power is no longer what it used to be, with just four extra-base hits since Aug. 26.

"Everybody knows that he's playing under some really, really tough conditions right now," manager Jim Leyland said. "It's tough for him on certain pitches and I think you obviously see it on the bases, which was part of the play [at the plate]. It is what it is. But he's certainly not a guy that I'm going to move around or take out of the lineup. He's a threat, particularly going to Boston with the Green Monster."

Leyland absolved Cabrera for the baserunning blunder, instead blaming third-base coach Tom Brookens for not signaling Miggy to stop soon enough.

"With two outs sometimes, you're thinking you've got to score, that's the old baseball thing," Leyland said. "But in this particular case with Miggy, you've got to hold him up right away. [Brookens] was waving and he probably stopped him a little late. With Miggy right now, you've got to stop him. And there was nothing Miggy could do. He saw him waving and Brookey held him up a little late.

"So it was just one of those unfortunate things. But in saying that, everybody just assumes the next guy is going to get a hit. That doesn't always hold true."

Cabrera said he wasn't able to stop in time, so he kept running: "In that situation you react quickly, and my reaction was to keep going."

Despite his problems, at least Cabrera didn't get booed by the local fans. The Detroit audience was not so kind to Prince Fielder, who still does not have an RBI this entire postseason. He singled in the first inning, but then grounded out his next three at-bats to draw jeers from the fans. Fielder has only one extra-base hit this postseason, and he's not exactly someone who can make up for a lack of power with speed on the bases.

Part of Fielder's problem is Boston is playing an effective defensive shift against him by positioning three infielders to the right of second base. His other problem has been his inability to power the ball over those infielders, drive the ball past them or get it through the left side of the infield.

"There's definitely a hole there but there's no GPS in the bat," Fielder said. "You've just got to hit the ball hard. I'd like to hit a few more balls in the air, but I don't have a magic wand."

"He's been trying to shoot the ball the other way, but he's had some tough pitches," Hunter said. "He's making some adjustments. He's doing the best he can. I don't think we should be booing him. This is our home, it's supposed to be a positive atmosphere. You shouldn't boo any of your players."

Another concern for Detroit is catcher Alex Avila, who left Game 5 with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee. He said he thought he would be able to play Saturday, but Leyland said he isn't sure about that.

One thing the Tigers did get from their position players Thursday was outstanding defense by shortstop Jose Iglesias. He made two excellent catches on popups, including one where he ran at least 100 feet before scooping it with his back to the plate just before it hit the ground.

"He's covering balls 100 yards to his left and his right," Hunter said. "Miggy's hurt and his range is kind of scarce, but with Iglesias out there, he covers some ground."

So with winter approaching fast, Tigers fans will depend on Scherzer and Verlander while rooting for Cabrera and Fielder to regain their power. If those two sluggers don't, the Tigers may need a couple more 1-0 victories to return to the World Series.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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