The Detroit Tigers are down 2-0 in their best of 7 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. And this is an act we’ve seen all too often this year. From the fans, from the team, from everyone involved.
What has become clear throughout 2012 is that the Tigers can quickly fall into an offensive funk. Said funk can last a few days or a few weeks. We watched it happen all year long. If and when they will shake out of it is anyone’s guess.
Another point of clarity driven home throughout 2012 is that Tiger fans could happily sleep at night with a 10-8 loss (so long as it wasn’t a blown save by Jose Valverde). But to lose 2-0, while only mustering 2 hits, in the most important game of the season no less, is entirely indigestible.
It makes sense. Teams are supposed to rise to the occasion when playing for the sport’s most coveted prize. The Tigers, for two games at least, have appeared to shrivel up into an offensive ball that can’t seem to get rolling downhill. Doug Fister’s masterpiece went by the wayside in Game 2 as the Tigers flailed at seemingly hittable Madison Bumgarner offerings all night long.
This brings us to yet another point of contention, this one spanning much more than just the 2012 season. The Tigers have a dirty habit of making average pitching look elite.
They did it in Game 1 against Zito. He barely threw any of his breaking balls for strikes. Why? Because he didn’t have to. The Tigers were swinging and missing at offerings out of the zone all night. Game 2 featured much of the same. Bumgarner was throwing a flat fastball at about 90 MPH, rarely pounding the strike zone. The Tigers didn’t force him to do so. So Bumgarner stayed way away, or way down and way in, and the Tigers obliged to the tune of 2 measly hits.
In my series preview, especially for Game 1, it was noted that the Tigers must show extreme patience and make Zito come into the strike zone with his soft arsenal. Instead, they let the 34-year old lefty dictate the tempo all night long. And Bumgarner followed suit in Game 2.
And now the Tigers are in a hole that many fans feel they simply cannot climb out of. They should know better. The Giants themselves were down by 2 games in each of their two National League rounds of play, yet here they are.
Momentum can swing at a moment’s notice. One big fly by Prince Fielder or one diving catch by Quintin Berry (who will start in left and bat 2nd in Games 3 & 4) could turn the whole show around.
Remember this: the Tigers went 50-31 at home during the regular season and are 4-0 at Comerica Park this October. All of that swagger the A’s brought into the building meant nothing. The Yankees were hopeless. Is this Giants team so much better? Maybe. They do look awfully good.
But the Tigers are pretty darn solid too. The weather will be chilly in Motown this weekend but the Tigers must heat up the bats. They will feel more comfortable with their traditional lineup of Delmon Young at DH and Berry in left, with Andy Dirks hitting 7th and playing right.
Anibal Sanchez, the trade dealine hire from the Marlins, will be tasked Saturday night with drawing the series closer. Doug Fister proved that the feisty Giants can be shut down by good pitching and Sanchez is throwing his best ball of the season.
He will oppose Ryan Vogelsong, who has been lights out for the Giants this postseason. Then Game 4 will be a marquee matchup with Max Scherzer taking on ace Matt Cain. But take heart Tiger fans, remember what Detroit did to the Yankees’ ace, CC Sabathia, in Game 4 in Detroit? Maybe they just prefer hitting upper echelon pitching.
The next 3 games will be played in Detroit. The hometown fans need to take a page out of the Giants’ playbook and bring the pandemonium to make life tough on Bruce Bochy’s crew. And the players, quite simply, need to battle during every at-bat, play to their potential, and take nothing for granted.
Do that and this thing will be back to the Bay in no time.