Stars go dim for Detroit - NBC Sports

Stars go dim for Detroit
That's who's supposed to win titles, but Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera not delivering
Giants catcher Buster Posey tags out the Tigers' Prince Fielder at the plate in the second inning of Game 2 Thursday in San Francisco.
October 26, 2012, 11:10 pm

Now they find themselves stuck in the unenviable position of needing to win four of the next five.

Anything less, and they'll be left with the bitter reality of a missed opportunity within their self-acknowledged championship window.

With all that went wrong by McCovey Cove, there is an obvious place to start: Superstars are supposed to win championships, but so far, the Tigers' have failed them.

  • There are few bigger emotion shifters in postseason baseball than an ace losing Game 1 when he's matched against somebody other than the other team's ace. There's just no getting around it - Justin Verlander did not play the part of ace in Game 1.

An eight-day layoff between starts? Deal with it. Fastball command shouldn't slip that much after 252 innings pitched since April. Verlander's final Game 1 line: Four innings, five runs, six hits and one big hole in which he put his team.

If Verlander is to get a chance at redemption in this series, it will come only in Game 5. No Mickey Lolich three-World Series-starts heroics for the current Tigers' ace. Manager Jim Leyland quickly dismissed that possibility before Game 2, so if the series gets back to AT&T Park, the crucial starts will go to Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez.

  • Yes, third-base coach Gene Lamont erred in trying to score Prince Fielder from first base on Delmon Young's double into the left-field corner in the second inning of Game 2. Fielder hadn't scored from first on a double to left field since June 2010, so odds weren't good.

With two outs, yes, you probably take that chance. After all, it did take a flawless relay to just nip Fielder. But with nobody out, setting up a second-and-third situation clearly was the way to go.

That said, Fielder could have made a much better slide - one to the foul side of the plate that might have eluded Buster Posey's sweep tag. It also must be said that on-deck hitter Jhonny Peralta wasn't there to signal which direction Fielder should slide, but Fielder should have seen that for himself.

Fielder's other baserunning flub came in the fourth inning of Game 1, after a leadoff single - his only World Series hit. Young followed with a tapper just in front of home plate that Posey quickly gloved.

He then tagged Young. That removed the forceout, allowing Fielder to stay at first base. But he said he didn't see the tag, so he ran into another out at second base for an inning-killing double play.

Granted, the Tigers shouldn't have to rely on the baserunning of a lumbering 275-pound first baseman to win games. But that's two key outs on the bases for Fielder - plus hitting into a double play in the seventh inning of Game 2, when he couldn't do anything more with a first-pitch, 90-mph fastball that Giants starter Madison Bumgarner left in the middle of the plate.

  • Fielder is far from alone in the Tigers' offensive malaise. They are hitting just .167 with two extra-base hits - Young's aforementioned double and Peralta's two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 1 that made it 8-3.

Since collecting two hits in his first three at-bats, Austin Jackson has struck out in four of his last five. And Triple Crown winner and likely AL MVP Miguel Cabrera's only World Series hit is an RBI single in Game 1.

Cabrera did have a line drive caught in each game - one by left fielder Gregor Blanco, the other by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who has stolen the spotlight from Cabrera as the Series' hitting star with his three-homer Game 1.

Asked about his team's hitting woes in AT&T Park, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said: "What are you going to do about it? I'm certainly not going to sit up here and rip my offense because last night (in Game 1), I thought we had some pretty good swings.

"Cabrera hit a bullet tonight. We had the unfortunate play at the plate early. We've got to do a little bit better offensively, but no, our offense is fine.''

Maybe, maybe not. But after doing next to nothing against the Giants' Nos. 3 and 4 playoff starters - Barry Zito and Bumgarner - they'll have to face the Giants' top two in Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain in Games 3 and 4.


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