The end of the line.
Red Sox 5, Tigers 2 (Sox win the series 4-2)
Most of the time, I love endings. I like getting to the end of books, movies, TV shows, parts of life, etc, but the end of a baseball season never come easy. The Tigers played their final game tonight, on the road at Fenway Park. They trailed 1-0 after 5, but grabbed a pair of runs in the 6th to back Max Scherzer, but faltered in their attempt to pile on thanks to a baserunning miscue by Fielder. They led 2-1 entering the 7th inning – nine defensive outs away from forcing Game 7. The gates opened in a variety of ways in that inning in part thanks to a call. In part thanks to a bobble by the best defender we’ve got. In part thanks to a terrible 0-2 pitch from the reliever we acquired to settle our pen. There wasn’t one thing that did the Tigers in on Saturday night. It was a lot of things. There’s no shame in the overall result – losing to the Sox in the ALCS – given that the Tigers best player was a shell of himself for the entire postseason, but this particular one stings. It’s always going to sting. That’s how this works. We pour our hearts into the season and baseball crushes us. It’s designed to crush us. It’s impossible to know how things would have been different if any one of the mistakes had gone differently and you shouldn’t bother trying. The Sox and the Tigers were the two best teams in the AL and the Tigers lost in 6 games with their best player held together with duct tape and superglue. The result doesn’t bother me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. They’ll go back to the drawing board this winter and fine tune the roster that’s come 6 or fewer wins from the World Series in each of the last three seasons and will likely send Justin Verlander to the mound against the Royals on the final day of March, five long months from now.
The Moment: Martinez drives in a pair to take the lead in the 6th.
A missed opportunity.
Red Sox 4, Tigers 3 (Sox lead series 3-2)
Anibal Sanchez (3 GS, 16.1 IP, 4.41 ERA, 5.07 FIP) had a bad inning. That’s about the size of it. He gave his team 6 innings, but he allowed 3 runs in the second and one more in the third to leave the Tigers trailing 4-0 early. They clawed back thanks to some amazing defense by Iglesias some timely hits that pushed across single runs in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings, but the key moment was Cabrera grounding into a double play with two on and no out in the 7th inning to quell the rally and keep the Tigers from completing the comeback. The Tigers certainly had their chances in this one, but a few key mistakes pushed them to the brink of elimination, requiring two victories in Boston to claim their second straight pennant. Game 6 will be Saturday with Max Scherzer (16 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.92 FIP) on the hill thinking about getting it to Verlander on Sunday.
The Moment: Jose Iglesias makes the most preposterous play in baseball since his last most ridiculous play.
Business as usual for the pitchers, business like August for the offense.
Tigers 7, Red Sox 3 (Series Tied 2-2)
A day after falling to the Sox 1-0 and three days after losing in soul-crushing fashion, the Tigers turned to Doug Fister (2 GS, 12 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3.05 FIP) to keep them from the brink of elimination. Fister did his job, holding the Sox to a single run across 6 innings courtesy of 7 K and 1 walk, but for a change of pace the offense carried the load. Jim Leyland made a much publicized lineup change and Jake Peavy’s three walk inning collided with a misplay from Pedroia and a couple of Tigers hits to generate a runaway inning in which the Tigers jumped ahead for good. Jackson also reached base four times in his new spot and Cabrera stole a base because that’s apparently what you do if you hit second. All in all, the Tigers handled their business and turned the series into a best of three with Anibal Sanchez (2 GS, 10 IP, 4.35 ERA, 5.66 FIP), Scherzer, and Verlander lined up to go in Games 5, 6, and 7.
The Moment: Hunter doubles in a pair in the 2nd.
Red Sox 1, Tigers 0 (Sox lead series 2-1)
Justin Verlander (3 GS, 23 IP, 0.39 ERA, 0.75 FIP) entered this one on fire and didn’t slow down, giving the Tigers 8 innings of 1 run baseball featuring 10 strikeouts and very little trouble. The only run he allowed came on a solo homerun but unfortunately his offense couldn’t provide the equalizer despite a couple of late chances. They had two on in the 8th with one out but Cabrera and Fielder went down on strikes and their leadoff runner was erased in the 9th on a double play ball that came a pitch after a very low strike was called on Jhonny Peralta. The Tigers pitchers did the job on Tuesday but the bats didn’t come through and handed homefield advantage back to the Red Sox. We were treated to a pitchers’ duel and a brief power outage in Game 3, but hopefully Doug Fister (1 GS, 6 IP, 4.50 ERA, 5.38 FIP) will make sure the only thing lacking power on Wednesday are the Red Sox bats.
The Moment: Verlander dominates again.
In an attempt to heal from Sunday night’s crushing defeat, I looked into how predictable/unpredictable Ortiz’s homerun was off Benoit. The answer, both. Benoit was one of the best right-handed relievers against lefties this year and hadn’t allowed a single lefty to take his changeup out of the park. On the other hand, Benoit’s first pitch to lefties is extremely predictable, so it can’t be too surprising that Ortiz was waiting for it.
Normally, everything I write about the Tigers is published here, but I used some fancy software through one of my other writing gigs to generate some of the graphics, so it’s going to live over at Gammons Daily. Fear not, here’s a link to the post. Enjoy/try not to do harm to yourself after reading it.
A nearly finishing blow.
Red Sox 6, Tigers 5 (Series tied 1-1)
Max Scherzer (16 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.93 FIP) was given the task of following a near no-hitter and shutout in Game 2 and he did not disappoint. Scherzer rolled over the Red Sox taking a no-hitter into the six, while finishing 7 innings of 1 run ball with 13 strikeouts. He was as filthy as ever, perhaps even more so. He had all of his pitches working and had the Red Sox swinging and missing and also watching helplessly. For a second straight night, the Tigers starter made one of the best offenses in baseball look like a high school lineup. Avila knocked in a run early during an early threat in the 2nd inning that ended with an Infante double play. But the Tigers finished the job they started in the 6th inning when they chased Buchholz with a homerun by Miguel Cabrera and then a majestic two run dagger from Alex Avila to give the Tigers a 5-0 lead. The bullpen, well the bullpen, didn’t exactly do the job. In the eighth, Veras, Smyly, and Alburquerque loaded the bases and David Ortiz came up to face Benoit with two outs. It did not go well. Ortiz sent one flying into the bullpen and we went to the 9th tied at 5. Gomes reached on an infield hit and advanced to second on an Iglesias error that definitely belongs to Fielder. Gomes moved up to 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on a single and the Sox completed the comeback. The Tigers pack up their Fenway lockers tied 1-1 in the ALCS and they’ll take Monday off knowing three wins at home this week will send them to their second straight Fall Classic. Justin Verlander (2 GS, 15 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 FIP) will take the ball on Tuesday having yet to allow a run in the postseason.
The Moment: Alex Avila turns on one and launches a 2-run homer to put this one out of reach in the 6th.
Strange, nearly historic, but ultimately successful.
Tigers 1, Red Sox 0 (Tigers Lead Series 1-0)
Anibal Sanchez (2 GS, 10.1 IP, 4.36 ERA, 5.66 FIP) stole the show on Saturday night in a pretty strange way, even for October. Sanchez had nasty stuff, but imperfect control and leveraged that into 12 strikeouts across 6 innings to go along with 6 walks. He managed to keep the Sox off the board in two separate columns, runs and hits. That’s right, Sanchez had a no-hitter intact when he came out of the game after six, but a six walk no-hitter is a no-hitter in name only and he was already over 110 pitches. In the postseason, you don’t bat an eye. You yank him. The Tigers grabbed their run on a Peralta RBI single in the 6th inning against the otherwise stingy Lester. The bullpens pitched to a draw over the final innings and the Tigers stole back home-field advantage with a win in Game 1 after allowing the first hit of the game in the 9th. They’ll turn things over to Max Scherzer (9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.94 FIP) Sunday night with a chance to go up 2-0 and put the Sox on life support.
The Moment: Sanchez K’s Stephen Drew to end the 6th with the bases loaded.
One you’ll want to forget.
Red Sox 20, Tigers 4
Things were strange at Fenway on this night as Rick Porcello (26 GS, 153 IP, 4.76 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 2.2 WAR) made some very good pitches during parts of the game and got smoked on other occasions. He allowed 3 HR and then left the bases loaded for Alburquerque to unload, pushing Porcello to 5 IP and 8 ER, but can at least take some (?) comfort in the fact that he did throw some nasty curves early in this one. The bats did a decent job scoring early, but it’s hard to match 20 runs (twelve of which came after Porcello left). Not a whole lot you can do about this one, other than to forget it and get ready for Kansas City on Friday with Anibal Sanchez (24, 151.1 IP, 2.68 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 5.0 WAR) taking the ball.
The Moment: Mario Impemba calls two innings from a cell phone as the FSD’s microphones go down.
The wrong side of a duel.
Red Sox 2, Tigers 1
Max Scherzer (28 GS, 190.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 5.7 WAR) gave the Tigers 7+ strong innings of 2 run baseball in which he walked 3 and struck out 8 Red Sox, but his team was unable to gather the necessary offense to carry them to victory. Leyland made some strange bullpen choices in the 8th, going to Coke and Putkonen, but no damage was done. However, when you only score one run – on an Iglesias double in the second – it’s unlikely that you’re going to win. The Tigers will have a chance to take the series Wednesday night with Rick Porcello (25 GS, 148 IP, 4.44 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 2.6 WAR) taking the ball.
The Moment: Iglesias drives one in against his former club.
An October preview?.
Tigers 3, Red Sox 0
The two best teams in the AL faced off on Labor Day and the Tigers locked in a .500 or better record with their 81st win of the season. Doug Fister (28 GS, 179.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.9 WAR) gave the Tigers 7 scoreless despite having to pitch around 5 free passes (4 BB and 1 HBP) with a couple double plays and some flashy (?!) Tigers defense. Neither team could score until the Tigers broke through with 2 in the 7th and 1 in the 8th. Rondon pitched around a double from Pedroia in the 8th and Veras shut the door to end it. The Tigers will try to take the series Tuesday night with the talented Max Scherzer (27 GS, 183.1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 5.4 WAR) getting the ball.
The Moment: Dirks triples to put the Tigers ahead in the 7th.