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The Detroit Tigers are on the brink of elimination after squandering chances in Game 4 of the ALCS en route to a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in 11 innings. Jose Valverde kept his perfect season alive -- the Tigers' closer has yet to blow a save -- but was tagged with the loss after giving up four runs in the top of the 11th in a non-save situation. For Detroit fans, it was a frustrating night.
Despite the loss, Detroit manager Jim Leyland seemed positive about the game, at least in its immediate aftermath.
"It's one of the best baseball games I've ever been involved in," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Just didn't come out the right way."
And if anyone tries to show up and say what a classic game this was they're going to learn a new set of swear words.
Well, all right. Detroit fans won't take solace in the fact that Leyland felt it was an excellent game, but it did provide plenty of fireworks and a couple of heroes, albeit on the wrong side of the field.
Nelson Cruz made a superb throw in the eight to gun down Miguel Cabrera at the plate, then added insurance in the 11th with a three-run home run. Mike Napoli added a gem of a throw himself, throwing out Austin Jackson in the 10th, before hitting a bloop single an inning later for what turned out to be the game-winner.
And now a second-straight World Series berth is within reach for the Rangers, who managed to find themselves on the right end of Wednesday's marathon.
After a game-tying home run by Brandon Inge in the seventh inning, the Detroit Tigers' offense skidded to a halt as the Texas Rangers jolted to life and put up four runs in the 11th to take a 3-1 series advantage with a 7-3 win on Wednesday night. Detroit managed just five hits in the loss, scoring two runs in the third and one in the seventh. And because of the missing offense, the Tigers now stand one game from elimination, with an uphill battle in front of them.
Over at SB Nation's Tigers' blog, Bless You Boys, the disgust with Detroit's offensive output on Wednesday was readily apparent.
5 hits: Gotta have more than 5 hits and 3 runs in the postseason. Unfortunately three runs seems to be Detroit's ceiling, as they've only broken past that number three times in nine postseason games.
did his job. The bullpen did their job. even had a game-tying home run. But the Tigers had just five hits. Scored just three runs. That's just not going to do it.
Really nothing more to say than that right now.
Detroit had its chances, most notably in the eighth when Nelson Cruz gunned down a tagging Miguel Cabrera at the plate on a Delmon Young fly-out. But with just five hits for the game and those three runs, Detroit left the door open, and the Rangers took advantage in the 11th.
Thanks largely to Nelson Cruz's arm and his bat, the Rangers beat the Tigers 7-3 in Game 4 of the ALCS, taking a commanding series lead.
For the rest of time, people will remember the perfect season from Jose Valverde. But there will always be an asterisk to Tigers fans, especially if they can't recover in the ALCS. In his second inning of work, Jose Valverde gave up four runs, and -- not to get too dramatic -- possibly the season.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the third inning on a two-run double from Miguel Cabrera, who jumped on an inside fastball. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, and Michael Young connected for RBI hits in the sixth inning for a 3-2 that held until Brandon Inge hit an unlikely solo shot in the seventh inning.
The bullpens held the scoreless tie until the 11th inning, when Mike Napoli hit an RBI single to put the Rangers up 4-3. Napoli threw out Austin Jackson trying to steal in the previous half-inning. Vernon Wells did not play in the game.
After Napoli put the Rangers up, Nelson Cruz put the game away with a three-run homer. The difference between a 2-2 series tie and a 3-1 lead can't be understated, and the Rangers are just a win away from the World Series.
With one out in the bottom of the tenth inning of a 3-3 game that will ultimately decide who goes to the World Series, Jim Leyland made sure that his best hitter didn't bat.
Well, that's not entirely fair. I'm not sure if Leyland told Austin Jackson to steal or if the outfielder had the green light. But he certainly didn't have a red light, and he was thrown out trying to steal second. What was a one-on, one-out situation became a bases-empty situation, and Ryan Raburn ended the inning by striking out. Miguel Cabrera was left on deck.
Scott Feldman was the pitcher, and he was the grateful and lucky recipient of some strategical charity. Even if Jackson makes it, it would have taken the bat out of Cabrera's hands if he did come up. Victor Martinez hasn't played like he's hurt tonight, but he can't be 100%.
By trying to steal second, the Tigers were hoping that Raburn would win the game instead of Cabrera. Okay.
The advantage in this game has shifted to the Tigers, because Jim Leyland is willing to use his closer and Ron Washington is not.
Granted, if their situations were reversed -- Leyland were managing in Texas, rather than Washington in Michigan -- they would almost certainly reverse their tactics, too.
But the fact is that Leyland just used his top reliever in the 10th inning, and Washington almost certainly will not. Which gives the Tigers a big advantage. Because as deep as the Rangers' bullpen is, Washington's already used three of his five best relievers and probably won't use one of the others (closer Neftali Feliz) until he absolutely has to.
Which might work out for him. But I can't imagine many worse things than a manager losing an extra-innings game without ever using his best relief pitcher. Which reminds me of a few games that Washington managed, roughly one year ago ...
Whatever. It's the bottom of the 10th, the score is still 3-3, and Scott Feldman's pitching against the Tigers.
I always feel bad for Jose Valverde when he finishes an inning in a non-save situation. There's pizzazz, but there isn't enough of it. It's like watching a genius operating at less-than-full capacity, like Orson Welles doing commercials.
Sort of like that but not as depressingly amusing. Valverde came on in the top of the tenth and set down Yorvit Torrealba, Ian Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus in order. No drama. So sad. So effective. The score is still 3-3.
The Rangers have a good bullpen. They should. They put a lot of effort into collecting slider mavens and hard throwers from all over baseball. But the Tigers have a pretty danged good bullpen too, and their non-closer important stuff is usually handled by Joaquin Benoit.
Benoit has played for three teams in his career. One team didn't get an equitable share of his value.
Texas developed him over the better part of the decade, and spit him out into the real world as an injured reliever. Now he's handling huge innings in a bid to keep the Rangers from their second straight pennant. How ungrateful.
In the top of the ninth inning, Benoit walked Nelson Cruz with one out, but after a strikeout of David Murphy, Cruz was caught stealing to end the inning. It's still 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Hey, that was interesting!
Ron Washington just ordered one of the more unorthodox moves in postseason history.
With the score 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Washington summoned Mike Adams from the bullpen to start the inning.
That wasn't unorthodox at all. Adams has been pitching scoreless eighths for years.
And Adams retired Ryan Raburn, leading off, on a routine grounder to shortstop.
Which brought up Miguel Cabrera.
He bats right-handed. Adams throws right-handed. Hitting home runs in Detroit isn't easy.
Washington ordered Adams to walk Cabrera.
With one out.
And nobody on base.
And it very nearly blew up in his face, because Victor Martinez slapped a single to right field and Cabrera scooted to third base and Delmon Young lifted a fly to fairly deep right field, but down the line.
But it didn't blow up in his face, because Nelson Cruz set up perfectly for the catch, gathered the baseball, and uncorked an absolutely beautiful throw home, in plenty of time for Mike Napoli to tag the tagging-up Cabrera.
With one out and no one on, Ron Washington ordered a walk to Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning and a 3-3 tie. Tim McCarver:
I wouldn't do that.
Congrats, Mr. Washington. You've just been outmaneuvered by Tim McCarver. Now I'm sure that Victor Martinez is going to hit into a double play just to make me and Timmy look silly.
Martinez hit a single that moved Cabrera to third with one out. That's exactly why you don't walk him in that situation. Then Delmon Young came up against Mike Adams, which is pretty much the mismatch of the year, and Young actually hit a fly ball. He did it! Unfortunately, Victor Martinez runs like the corpse of Victor Hugo, and he was nailed at the plate by a strong throw from Nelson Cruz.
Unbelievable. It's always better to be lucky than good, so well played, Washington. Well played.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Brandon Inge was facing Alexi Ogando. In his career, Brandon Inge is 2-for-16,408 against right-handers, with those two hits coming off Tim Wakefield. That might not be completely accurate, but if you can think of a free site with all sorts of baseball stats, I'd like to hear about it.
Then Inge hit a home run to tie the game. Of course he did.
Inge, who went the minors because he would have been released otherwise, who played on a 119-loss Tigers team, hit a booming homer to left against Ogando. It's probably worth a note that it wouldn't have been a home run before they moved the fences in at Comerica. But then Inge probably knew that, seeing as he's been on the Tigers since 1985.
The crowd demanded a curtain call, which he gladly gave. If the Tigers win this game, it would be pretty amazing to think Inge had a part of it.
With Texas going ahead 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning, Harrison's day was finished, Alexi Ogando taking his place on the mound in the bottom of the inning. Miguel Cabrera led off for the Tigers, and Ogando pitched him so carefully that Cabrera soon was trotting to first base with a walk.
Ogando had some trouble with Victor Martinez, too, but finally retired Detroit's DH on a fly ball to fairly deep center field. He had no trouble at all with Delmon Young, who swung at three straight sliders and missed all three by plenty. And finally, Ogando threw a 97-mile-an-hour fastball to Alex Avila, who lifted an easy fly to left for Out Number Three.
The Rangers' bullpen hasn't been untouchable in October -- they entered Game 4 with a 2.40 relief ERA, which is obviously quite fine but less than perfect -- but with Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz looming in the eighth and ninth innings, it might feel that way if you're the Tigers.
Meanwhile, Rick Porcello's still pitching for Detroit, trying to keep the score Rangers 3, Tigers 2.
Rick Porcello started the sixth inning looking like a candidate for a complete-game shutout. He barely made it through the inning.
David Murphy singled to lead off the sixth inning, and after Yorvit Torrealba popped out for the Rangers' first non-strikeout/grounder of the game, Ian Kinsler doubled into the left-field corner. Delmon Young kicked the ball around for a bit -- hey, he's in there for his bat, which he can't really swing without pain -- and Murphy came around to score. After Kinsler stole third, Elvis Andrus looped a single over the right side of the infield.
Andrus moved to second when a pickoff throw from Porcello caromed off his back and down the line, and Michael Young drove him in with a single.
And in the sixth inning, David Murphy is 2-for-2, Ian Kinsler has an RBI double, and Michael Young has an RBI single. Well, duh. They had the best career success coming into the game. This is like watching someone who claims to have a system for video poker make out with a ton of money. Stupid prescient microsplits.
Through four innings of work, Rick Porcello has thrown 49 pitches. Of those 49 pitches, 38 - or 78 percent - of them have been strikes. That's outstanding.
He's also struck out six batters. That's outstanding, too. Rick Porcello's career high for strikeouts in a game is eight. His season high is seven. So Porcello isn't just pounding the zone and getting weak outs on balls in play - he's limiting the balls in play, which is somewhat unlike him.
In the top of the fourth, Porcello retired the first two batters he faced. He then fell behind Michael Young 3-0 in the count, but rallied to strike him out swinging on a low-inside fastball.
Matt Harrison, for his part, was also good in the bottom of the fourth. He walked one guy, but he struck out two, and he didn't allow a run. So he kept the deficit at 2-0, established an inning earlier on Miguel Cabrera's two-run double.
And oh, as it happens, Rick Porcello just turned in a scoreless top of the fifth as I was writing this. I should probably learn to write faster, and that's my own shortcoming, but what's happened has happened, and in the fifth, Porcello allowed a one-out ground ball single before inducing a tapper back to the mound. Porcello wheeled around and started a 1-6-3 double play to end it.
So at the midpoint, it's Detroit 2, and Texas 0. It continues to rain.
This isn't shaping up as one of Matt Harrison's better starts.
True, he's given up only two runs in four innings and it's not his fault his mates haven't scored at all against Rick Porcello.
Still, Harrison's probably a little lucky that he's given up only two runs, and to this point he's shown absolutely zero control of the of the strike zone, walking three Tigers while striking out just one.
Harrison's worst start in 2011 came way back in late April, when he lasted only three innings against the Jays and gave up seven runs. Four months later, he again gave up seven runs but did last five innings against the Red Sox.
You could also argue for his May start against the Athletics -- his next start after getting hammered by Toronto -- in which he got knocked out in the second inning, giving up four runs.
Those were Harrison's only Disaster Starts all season; starts in which his runs allowed exceeded his innings.
This game's not likely to be a disaster. It's also not likely to be good enough.
It doesn't matter how many Don Kellys or Andy Dirkeses the Tigers can throw out there, because if Miguel Cabrera gets pitches to hit, the Tigers will be juuuuust fine. Brandon Inge singled in the bottom of the third, and a two-out single to Ryan Raburn brought Miguel Cabrera to the plate with two runners on.
Matt Harrison has been sans command early on for the most part, but Cabrera's double came on an inside fastball that was right where Mike Napoli wanted it. Cabrera just has that certain -- how do you say? -- talent for hitting baseballs. One double later, and the Tigers have a 2-0 lead through three innings.
Rick Porcello is humming along on the other side. The last update regarding Porcello had to do with his sinker -- and it really is a fantastic pitch. I'm a sucker for a good sinker. All hail the sinker!
And the sinker-throwing Porcello is looking completely dominating through three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out five and inducing four grounders. All hail the sinker!
There's just one problem with that exclamation of sinkerophilia: Porcello is getting a lot of his outs with the slider. And if you go by FanGraphs' metrics, the slider was actually his most effective pitch in 2011.
It's probably not a good idea to make too much of single-season pitch values, but the slider Porcello is featuring tonight really is of the better ones I've seen him feature. The term "sinker/slider guy" isn't used nearly as much as it used to be -- or maybe it was only Mike Krukow who used it, and he stopped -- but when Porcello has both of those pitches working, he's one of the more interesting young pitchers in the game.
Meanwhile this other guy -- Max Harrison or something -- is throwing 96 from the left side, and he's getting torched. Ho hum. Where's the sink? WHERE'S THE SINK, PAL? WHERE'S THE SLIDE?
So we've got a meme ... Whoever wins Game 4 will win the Series, because a) if the Rangers win, they'll have a commanding lead, and b) if the Tigers win Game 4, of course they'll win Game 5 because Justin Verlander's starting Game 5, and Justin Verlander never loses and it'll be almost impossible for the Rangers to win Games 6 and 7.
The first part of that is fine; if the Rangers take a 3-1 lead in the Series, they're in fantastic shape.
The rest of it, though?
Verlander's a great pitcher, of course.
His xFIP this season -- that is, his expected ERA, based on the numbers he largely controlled -- was 3.12, an excellent figure and good for second in the American League (just behind CC Sabathia).
The Rangers' Game 5 starter will be C.J. Wilson, whose xFIP was 3.41, fourth best in the league.
Verlander's slightly better than Wilson. The Rangers' hitters are slightly better than the Tigers' hitters.
If you were running a simulation of this game, the score would be approximately 4-4.
Should the Tigers be favored in Game 5? Yeah, maybe by a smidgeon because of Verlander and because they're playing at home. But Verlander is hardly unbeatable, and particularly with the Rangers' ace on the mound.
Game 4 is important, but particularly for the Tigers. If they lose they're practically finished; the same is not true for the Rangers.
Speaking of Game 4, it's still scoreless entering the bottom of the third inning.
Game 4 of the ALCS is, appropriately enough, a matchup of fourth starters, with Texas throwing Matt Harrison, and Detroit throwing Rick Porcello. One might figure, then, that in a matchup of fourth starters, we'd see some runs.
I'm sure we'll see some runs eventually. Or at least one. We're guaranteed one. But we've seen no runs yet, through two innings of play.
Porcello's second inning was a little more difficult than his first, but not because he had to pitch around any baserunners. Ramon Santiago made a diving stop to rob Michael Young of a single to lead off, and then Porcello whiffed both Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli.
In the bottom half, Harrison settled down after a wild first inning, going 1-2-3 through the Tigers' 5-6-7. Delmon Young hit a ball moderately hard to left, but flew out. Alex Avila worked a 3-1 count, but hit a soft grounder. Then Jhonny Peralta lined out to end the frame. Harrison wasn't impressive, but he was effective, which is ultimately what the Rangers want.
This is probably an idea I'll explore in an offseason feature, but there are some players who look way better than they really are. As in, if no one kept track of any stats -- innings pitched, strikeouts, runs allowed -- there are some players who would be thought of way more highly than anyone else.
The best example might be Rick Porcello. If you watch him for an inning which he's effective, like was the first inning of Game 4, he looks like the toughest pitcher to hit on the planet. He throws a 94-m.p.h. sinker that moves like a whiffle ball. There shouldn't be a way for anyone to hit him, but on average he allowed a run in every other inning he pitched. He's the anti-Shaun Marcum. Well, anti-the-Shaun-Marcum-from-August, at least.
Porcello retired the side on eight pitches in the first, throwing seven strikes. It looked like that was how he always pitches.
Matt Harrison walked two hitters in the bottom-half of the first, but he mixed a double play in between. He threw 20 pitches, just nine of them for strikes.
Okay, not all statistics.
But this batter-vs.-pitcher thing has gotten completely out of hand.
But of course Buck neglects to mention that Jackson's .500 batting average against Harrison derives from five hits and 10 at-bats. Or that 10 at-bats is essentially meaningless, and don't deserve to be mentioned at all.
Of course it's not just Joe Buck. If you believe the reports, Mark Kotsay is starting for the Brewers against the Cardinals tonight because he's got four hits in 11 career at-bats against Chris Carpenter. Granted, seven of those at-bats came 12 years ago. But Kotsay went 2 for 3 against Carpenter in August.
Yes, he did. Also meaningless, and shouldn't be mentioned unless it's with the express purpose of ridiculing Ron Roenicke's decision to start Kotsay.
Granted, there might be an excellent reason to start Kotsay in Game 3 against Carpenter. But that reason is not 11 at-bats, no matter what happened in them or when it happened.
If you believe Twitter -- and really, why would you not? -- there will be baseball in Detroit this evening, with the first pitch now scheduled for (approximately) 6:30 Eastern, slightly more than two hours later than the originally scheduled start.
How will this affect everyone, especially the starting pitchers? No one can know. If nothing else, though, Víctor Martínez, Delmon Young, and Adrián Beltré all have gotten a bit more time to heal from their battle wounds.
If Bud Selig were really an evil super-villain genius, he'd have a functioning weather machine by now. For the third time in the ALCS -- and what feels like the 19th time in the playoffs -- a game is likely to be affected by the weather. From FOX:
Rain delay. Estimated first pitch time is 5:15pm ET. Stay tuned cause we've got some great features & interviews lined up.
I'm secretly glad that this means more A.J. Pierzynski's face than baseball. No, truly I am.
The weather looks something like this:
It's promising that it's a lighter rain, but it's not promising that there seems to be a whole bunch of it. The next off day would be Friday if they had to make a game up, but guess what?
Looks like tonight is the best chance they'll have, and then we'll get to do this again tomorrow. Wheeeeeeeee! Not laughing at Tropicana Field so much now, are you?
Between the three hitters in the middle of the Tigers' lineup for Game 4, there are two functional torsos. Should be good enough, right?
This is the left-mashing lineup, which is pretty much the regular Tigers lineup these days without Don Kelly. The Rangers' starting pitcher, Matt Harrison, actually had reverse platoon splits this year, handling right-handed batters easier than lefties, but that could just be a flukish single-season thing. Raburn has always hit lefties better than righties (.268/.311/.420 vs. RHP, .270/.340/.507 vs. LHP), and Delmon Young even has an OBP of .343 (!) against lefties for his career.
Those two aren't the only ones with extreme platoon splits in the lineup. Brandon Inge is basically Yuniesky Betancourt against righties, but something more like Scott Rolen against lefties, and Jhonny Peralta has a slight power advantage against southpaws for his career. If everyone is okay to swing a bat, the Tigers match up fairly well with lefties, even without Magglio Ordoñez.
It's not a fully healthy Delmon, though, and Victor Martinez is struggling with a similar issue with his side. Everyone will be watching the first swings they take in the game, studying their faces and looking for a telltale grimace or two.
Yup. Yorvit Torrealba: Designated Hitter.
First baseman Mitch Moreland's been struggling lately and Torrealba got three hits in Game 3, and if there's anything we know about baseball managers and postseason baseball, it's that they have short memories. Still, it's worth mentioning, if only in passing, that Torrealba's career OPS (697) against right-handed pitchers is more than a hundred points lower than Moreland's (806).
There's a change in left field, where David Murphy replaces Endy Chavez, who started in Game 3 but went hitless in three at-bats.
Oh, and there's one notable non-change: Despite fouling 13 baseballs off his lower extremities in Game 3 and limping through most of the game, Adrian Beltre's back in there at third base. Maybe it's all a clever ruse, and the first time he's on base he'll steal the next base standing up.
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