Burning Questions in the wake of the Tigers’ 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers in Game 3 of the ALCS:
The key to this one?
Why, it came in the very first inning. The Rangers, despite not hitting the ball very hard, put the first three batters on base and had a 1-0 lead before all the fannies were in their Comerica Park seats.
It could have gotten really ugly at that point. The crowd was already out of the game—a game the Tigers needed desperately. And here were the Rangers, on the heels of their walk-off win in Game 2, with a run in and looking for more.
But Tigers starter Doug Fister limited the damage—getting Michael Young to ground into a difficult 6-4-3 double play, then striking out Adrian Beltre. The Tigers had escaped, down just 1-0.
Yeah, but the offense looked sluggish again. Did you have bad thoughts, despite Fister’s escape act?
Well, sure. The Tigers have been scuffling since Game 4 of the Yankees series. Miguel Cabrera was looking ordinary again. The crowd was still lifeless. The Tigers got men on base in the second inning and stranded them. It looked like an act that we’re growing weary of.
I smell another key, right?
Well, not so much a key as maybe a sign that the breaks would finally go the Tigers’ way.
It happened in the top of the third inning, with Ian Kinsler on first base. He was running on the pitch, and Elvis Andrus bounced one up the middle. But Jhonny Peralta was covering second on the steal attempt, and was Jhonny on the Spot, fielding the grounder, touching second base, and throwing to first to complete the DP.
Had Peralta not been covering, Andrus’ grounder goes into center field and the Rangers have runners on the corners and another rally brewing.
At that point I thought, “Maybe the breaks will start to go the Tigers way now.”
And the next inning, Victor Martinez snaps out of his slumber and slugs a game-tying homer. But he got hurt, it looked like. Maybe the breaks weren’t done going against the Tigers?
The Fox cameras caught V-Mart hurling his helmet down the runway in the Tigers dugout, indicating that he was in some pain, as was evidenced by his oh-so-slow home run trot. But we’ll just have to wait and see how serious his injury is.
The Tigers hit three home runs and got some hits with runners on base, eventually. Is the offense back?
The Tigers better hope so. Their fortunes look less bleak now, but as I said after Game 2, baseball and momentum have a tempestuous relationship.
But it was nice to see Cabrera and Martinez bust out a bit, and Peralta slamming a third home run. Maybe this will settle the team down—they had to have been pressing a bit.
Then there’s Alex Avila. Are you sick of being asked about him?
Well, it’s not a pleasant discussion but it needs to be discussed. The Tigers can’t really give him a blow right now—even with a day game after a night game. Jim Leyland isn’t going to start Omir Santos, that’s for sure.
The Tigers are the only playoff team that doesn’t really have a viable no. 2 option at catcher. Now, with Avila possibly worn out from a long year, the Tigers are stuck.
Surprised to see Jose Valverde in the game, after pitching two innings the day before?
Yeah, a little bit, with two more games on successive days on the docket.
I thought Leyland might try to pitch Joaquin Benoit in the eighth AND ninth, frankly, giving Papa Grande a day’s rest. And Leyland might have, if the Tigers had a four-run lead headed to the ninth—the dreaded non-save situation.
Is this a new series now?
Sure, but in less than 24 hours it can be a new series again—the wrong way. The Rangers can still take a 3-1 series lead on Wednesday, which would pretty much cancel out tonight’s Tigers win.
Any words about Doug Fister?
Like all top drawer starters, Fister proved that if you don’t get to him early, you could be in for a long night. Jack Morris was a classic example of this. The Cat was noted for having rough early innings then settling down.
After wriggling out of the first, Fister was terrific. Just what the doctor ordered for the Tigers on a night where their offense arrived late but as they say, “Better late than never”!!
One more for you. Did you miss Terry Francona in the Fox booth, as Tim McCarver returned following his heart procedure?
I’m going to surprise you and say no. After all, the Tigers are 0-2 with Tito as Joe Buck’s partner and 1-0 with old “Second Inning” behind the mike.
Um, yeah. Apparently that was McCarver’s nickname when he was briefly with the Red Sox at the end of his career. Seems every game he played, in the second inning, McCarver would head for the clubhouse restroom and, um, relieve himself in a no. 2 kind of way.
Too much information!
Good thing Game 4 is a day game, to take your mind off it quickly!
(Come back here in the hours after every Tigers post-season game to read me answer the “Burning Questions”)