Cold, pressing Tigers need to get things going 'right' at home
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
GalleriesWorld Series: Giants sweep Tigers
It's not so funny anymore.
After watching in amusement during the ALCS as the Yankees struggled to put the ball in play, the Tigers seem to have lost their sense of humor, along with the ability to strike fear into a pitching staff.
Was there anything more desperate than trying to have Prince Fielder -- a 275-pound bowling ball of a man -- score from first base on a none-out double in the second inning of Thursday night's 2-0 loss to the Giants in Game 2? It took a great relay throw by Marco Scutaro and an outstanding tag by Buster Posey to nail Fielder, but still.
It was a bold move, and one that now underscores where the Tigers' minds are at as they head into Saturday night's Game 3 at Comerica Park. They're hitting .167 (10-for-60) in the first two games with 17 strikeouts and a .231 on-base percentage. And Detroit has scored three runs.
Sound familiar? A week ago, Joe Girardi risked alienating half his roster in trying to find a combination that could manufacture a run or two against the Tigers. He benched Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson -- a trio responsible for 85 homers during the regular season -- in a panic-driven effort to revive the offense.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland isn't that spooked after seeing his team fall into an 0-2 series hole, but he'll have some new obstacles to contend with in the hope of avoiding a sweep. As bad as the lineup looked against Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner, Detroit now gets the Giants' two best pitchers: Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3 and Matt Cain for the potential clincher.
It's also going to be chilly. For Saturday night's first pitch, scheduled for 8:07, the temperature is expected to be 46 degrees and falling, according to weather.com. Here in Detroit, the NFL's Lions have a domed stadium, unlike the Tigers, whose deep freeze at the plate could feel even frostier the next couple of days.
"It's cold, but this is the World Series," Leyland said. "It's cold for everybody. It's cold for the fans, the beer is cold, everything is cold. It's great. Enjoy it."
Easy for Leyland to say. He doesn't have to face Vogelsong or Cain with a bat in his hands, a bat that could inflict serious pain upon the person holding it if it shatters from an inside fastball.
But the Tigers, who have performed better against righthanded pitchers this season, do possess that statistical edge. Their .275/.337/.434 splits against righties are a nice bump from their numbers against lefties (.253/.329/.395). There's no guarantee that will continue in the next two games, but hey, it's something.
Plus, Fielder is much more ferocious in these situations -- he had a 1.017 OPS against righties and 24 of his 30 homers came off them -- so that should allow them to flex more muscle.
"We've hit some balls pretty good," Austin Jackson said. "We just couldn't get them to fall when we needed them."
Miguel Cabrera's frustration bubbled over Thursday when he drilled a rocket toward leftfield that third baseman Pablo Sandoval -- not to be confused with LeBron James -- leaped for and speared. The Triple Crown winner, and likely MVP when the award is announced next month, delivered an RBI single in Game 1 but otherwise hasn't found himself in many threatening spots so far.
"There's enough pressure on guys," Leyland said, "and I think what you want to do is you have to try to get it across to your guys to embrace the pressure. It's my old favorite story. If you studied for the test, and there's the test, it's good pressure. If you haven't studied for the test, it's bad pressure. I just want my guys to be able to embrace this moment."
The Tigers will be doing it with hand warmers this weekend. Anything to ward off the cold. Figuring out a way to heat up at the plate, however, might not be so easy.