Oct 19, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino (left) reacts after hitting a grand slam off of Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jose Veras (31) during the seventh inning in game six of the American League Championship Series playoff baseball game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Slammed By Boston Red Sox, Lose 5-2

Well Max Scherzer was very good again, but, for the second time this series, the Detroit Tigers bullpen fails to hold his lead by giving up a grand slam. This time it was Shane Victorino delivering the blow off of Jose Veras.

The Tigers held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning with Scherzer on the mound when Jonny Gomes led off with a double off the green monster. Max struck out Stephen Drew for the first out of the inning, but then Xander Bogaerts followed by working a full count walk — Pitch FX had the ball in the zone for strike three — to put runners on first and second with one out. Jim Leyland went to the bullpen to get the left Drew Smyly to face the lefty Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury hit a grounder up the middle that Jose Iglesias mishandled and a possible double play ball turned into zero outs. Detroit was inches away from getting out number two — Bogaerts out looking — and number three — a grounder to short — but instead had the bases loaded with only one out. Leyland went to the bullpen again to get the righty Jose Veras with two right handed hitters due up for Boston.

Veras got the first two strikes on Victorino but then left an 0-2 curveball up in the zone and it was blasted over the monster. Second grand slam for the Red Sox in the series. You could argue that Scherzer should have still been in the game, but he would have been facing the lineup for a fourth time, and the numbers say that’s pretty much never a good idea. You could argue that Smyly should have been left in after facing only one batter, but the Tigers needed outs, and Veras may have provided the best chance for that. Here are some 2013 numbers versus right-handed hitters:

  • Veras: .254 OBP
  • Smyly: .295 OBP

That’s not an obviously wrong move by Jim Leyland. Didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it’s his fault. Necessarily.

It’s going to be a long offseason for fans who were pinning all of their hopes and dreams on a World Series title. The Twitter comments already make it seem like the Tigers are the worst team ever, that they played the worst series ever, and that Leyland is the worst manager ever, but they were outscored in the series by only one run. The bummer is in how those runs were distributed. Some of that is the Tigers being weak in the bullpen, some of that is the Tigers not taking advantage and scoring more runs, but it’s fine to also say that there was some plain old bad luck.

It’s disappointing, yes, but this makes three straight seasons where the Tigers have taken us to Game 6 of the ALCS or further. There are worse things in life.

It will be an interesting offseason. Do the Tigers have another “all-in” season left in them? Do they have the resources to go even more “all-in”?

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Tags: 2013 ALCS 2013 MLB Playoffs Detroit Tigers

  • John Cate

    I’ll start off by saying I’m a Red Sox fan, and stumbled here through a link. But I’ve read all sorts of comments from Tigers fans crucifying Leyland, and I’m not sure that’s fair.

    Like the article said, Scherzer was in his fourth time through the order, and would have been facing some awfully good hitters with 110 pitches under his belt already. Even if he had stayed in and got out of the inning, Leyland still would had to go to his bullpen, and I doubt they would have held the lead.

    In any case, the bigger picture that I saw is that the Tigers may have the best starting pitching I’ve ever seen in one rotation, and they hit the ball, but they don’t do anything else well. They have two DH’s at the corners of their infield, they run the bases atrociously, and their bullpen is subpar.

    I don’t know that they can fix the first two issues, since they’re still going to have three DH’s and only one DH slot to fill (although I’d play V-Mart more at first and Fielder as the DH, whether he likes it or not), but fixing the bullpen would make a huge difference.

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