ALCS: Boston 3, Detroit 2. Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3. Not as close as the score would indicate… or was it? It doesn’t take much to lose a game, and in this instance I’m not talking about late-inning drama. For a game that looked like it was over after 3 innings, the Tigers had their chances. Upon chances.
Let’s get the hat-tipping out of the way right away, shall we? A. Napoli’s 445′ shot to center. The home broadcasters would be foaming at the mouth about “another planet” had a certain Tiger hit that pitch that far. Let’s give credit to an opponent for awe-inspiring raw power. (I thought it was a blip at the time, a wake-up call that would get Sanchez back on track.) B. The crucial Bogaerts-Pedroia-Napoli DP that killed the Tigers’ 6th. C. Tazawa v. Cabrera. D. In general, the Red Sox were very, very ready for a pitcher who had stumped both them and himself last time out. E. Lester, the guy the Tigers can hit without hitting. I like their chances against Buchholz and Lackey much, much better. F. Smart baserunning by Middlebrooks, the sort of thing you’d see from Hunter or a healthy Cabrera, although perhaps Miggy would have to be unusually healthy to make this first to third on a sac bunt.
The bad: A. No one did more to lose the game than Anibal Sanchez. More bad pitches in one start than you’ll usually see in three from him, and he was lucky to get away with 4 runs allowed. The run-scoring WP in the 3rd pretty much killed the game for me, and in the end, it stood out as the nail in the coffin. B. Miguel’s fielding error was just butt-ugly. Don’t give me “bad hop” or “he’s hurting.” C. I don’t care if Miggy didn’t see Brookens’ change of signal or blew through it. To even entertain the thought of sending Cabrera home from 2B on a sharp single right to the left fielder, a play that will obviously force Cabrera to slide if it’s even close, is egregiously wrong on principle. That is not “aggressive baseball.” That is a losing call. That is fly by the seat of your pants, unprepared, situation-oblivious stupidity. I think we are beyond disbelief of Tom Brookens at this point. I know I am. But maybe that’s just uninformed, opinionated fan talk I’ll regret when I realize the genius of it all.
The unfortunate: A. Peralta’s nearly-double deep foul down the LF line with 2 on in the first inning. Oh! Boy, did he smack that one, first pitch. B. Cabrera’s nearly-HR down the RF line later on, also against Lester, also with a man or two on if I’m not mistaken. C. The Jackson GIDP in the 6th. D. The Cabrera DP in the 7th. The latter did score a run, but it could have been so much more. Second pitch. Ouch. Miggy didn’t like it, either. E. Avila getting hurt on the collision at the plate with Ross. I guess I’ll leave not removing him from the game sooner in the “unfortunate” category.
The good: A. The amazing play by Iglesias on the shallow LF popup? I think the amazing part was that the ball stayed in his glove. The long run (from Ortiz shift 2B position) to get there? Well, he’s fast – that’s not so amazing. The quick move to swipe at the ball and glove it? Well, there’s amazing somewhere in there, but the more I watch it, the core of it seems to be in the glove control.The fast reflexes, yes – wow. Holding on to that swiped-at ball. Double wow. B. The Detroit bullpen was outstanding. The Veras curve is a joy to behold, much like the Fister curve and the Verlander curve. Some prefer fastballs. I like a good curve. C. Hey, the Tigers made a game of it, sort of. Even Sanchez recovered, sort of. D. Pena lives. Got himself an RBI.
A play and a call: A. There was that Ross sac bunt that got Middlebrooks over to 3B (from 1B) in the top of the 9th. Good bunt. Very good play by Miggy on it. No flies on the throw to 3B from Prince after the out at 1B. Bit of trouble covering 3B, apparently. Some “umpire interference” at 3B that really didn’t make a difference, in my view. Broadcasters said Pena was to blame for a late break to cover 3B. I’m no strategy expert, but why isn’t Alburquerque breaking to cover the base? The whole play, he’s meandering in the center of the diamond. B. Now, with a man on 3B, only runner, one out, playing to prevent any runs, why the intentional walk? What do the stats guys have to say about this? If you’re the Tigers and the walked batter is Ellsbury, you’ve essentially issued an intentional double, which is exactly what happened. That’s two easily scored runs to worry about when you can’t afford to allow one, and your double play (which was no sure thing anyway, with Victorino batting) down the drain. Pointless. No damage done, thanks to Alburquerque, but I wonder if it’s irksome to a pitcher to have the IBB ordered in a situation like this.
All right. Next.
* Oh: Phooey on the tiresome Cardinals. There goes the Fielder trade. I was hoping for a Tigers-Dodgers WS, just for variety’s sake. Well, at least the Cardinals don’t have silly beards. Or do they? They do have the unknown rookie phenom pitcher going for them, which might be worse. Hmmm. Nah.
* Could there be a slight lineup tweak in the offing? You know who I’m talking about.
I could go on for several long paragraphs with contrasting views on the Tigers’ chances down 3-2 and headed to Boston, but I’ll boil it down.
* The Detroit Tigers can beat the Boston Red Sox any day of the week. However, they might not be able to beat the Red Sox any two days of the week. I’ll go out on a limb and say there’s no way Boston beats Detroit two in a row now.
* That the Tigers can win two in a row at Fenway Park was amply demonstrated in Games 1 & 2. Well, maybe not amply, or even at all, because it didn’t actually happen. But you know what I mean. It was that close. Boston was on the ropes.
* Stats are out the window, and what’s happened to date in the postseason is out the window. The 2013 regular season doesn’t matter, and looking ahead to 2014 doesn’t matter. The Tigers Universe now consists of two games (or so we hope) against the Red Sox in Boston. All hands on deck. Do it, whoever you may be and at whatever point you may or must, but do it and get it done. Do it or die. Do it or go home to watch the World Series instead of playing in it.
We might have to prepare ourselves for some heartbreak, so let me ask you this: Would you rather have the Tigers go down in 6 and be done with it, or see them take it to a thrilling 7 only to watch it slip away in another 9th inning or extra inning anticlimax? I guess the answer to that is too obvious. So let me rephrase it: Which would hurt more? Which would inspire the more bitter commentary?
Ultimately, what can we be right now but hopeful and happy, happy that there’s hope and hopeful that we’ll still be happy tomorrow?
Scherzer today. That’s good. Verlander tomorrow would be even better. Kevin did promise. After that.. well, what could go wrong?