I’m glad the Lions are 5-0 now, and doubly glad that they provided something to cheer me and all the other Tigers fans out there up after a demoralizing 11-inning loss yesterday evening.
The Tigers now return home in an 0-2 hole – they aren’t finished yet, but things have become desperate. This series is going how short series often do – especially between evenly matched teams – a few breaks here and there or a few chances that you capitalize on and everything else is washed away in champagne. Going into the series we expected the Texas offense to be potent – but Tigers pitchers (until the 11th yesterday) did a pretty decent job. One bad pitch to Nelson Cruz by JV on Saturday was all it took to put the Rangers ahead for good, a scene repeated eerily by Max Scherzer in the 7th on Monday. But, all told 10 runs in two games isn’t far off what we might have expected – and 6 runs in regulation would have seemed like a dream come true as of Saturday afternoon.
We also figured that the Tigers batters matched up well against the Rangers starters – and for that matter they still do – but it hasn’t helped much. The Tigers scored 5 runs in 7 1/3 against a combination of C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland. That’s an unimpressive 6.14 ERA. Both Wilson and Holland struggled mightily – the Tigers had 19 baserunners – and the Tigers could easily have put the Rangers in big holes in both games had they simply been able to capitalize in the clutch, but that was not meant to be. And thanks to rain delay and playoff pressure Wilson and Holland were never left to dry and the Texas bullpen was plenty deep enough to eat those innings. While the Tigers did have their chances, and really let these games slip through their fingers, the Rangers bullpen was the story of the first two games. The spectacle of watching Tigers hitters flail aimlessly at pitches they apparently couldn’t see required a stiff drink to calm fans’ nerves. The final line: the Rangers ‘pen threw 12 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in the first two games, scattering 6 hits and 3 walks while striking out a whopping 16 (!!!). We aren’t really talking about a situation where Rangers pitchers ‘got lucky’ to get out of jams. Tigers batters are making the Rangers ‘pen look like a collection of seven eight-figure closers. I concede that many of them are simply talented, but the Tigers themselves simply seem unable to hit them.
I still have hope going into game 3. Doug Fister looked great in game 5 against the Yankees, and we’ll be taking the game away from homer friendly Arlington, but something has to change vis a vis the bullpen. We can’t simply hope that enough damage is dealt to the starter in the first couple of innings to carry through the rest of the game – even Fister can’t be expected to bear that burden. Our greatest hope may lie in the rain out which has forced playoff games to be played on four consecutive days. One would think that even the Rangers ‘pen can’t average 6 innings a game, 4 games running and stay effective.
Oh, and one final note: Why did Andy Dirks pinch-hit for Brandon Inge? If that substitution had not been made, that’s probably two outs already in the bag when Cruz comes up to the plate in the 11th. Just my two cents worth.