Tigers hope bats warm up in World Series chill


Tigers hope bats warm up in World Series chill

DETROIT (AP) Toting his tiny aluminum bat, 5-year-old Gage Brookens wandered toward the cage and watched Austin Jackson, Omar Infante and a few other Tigers take batting practice on a chilly afternoon at Comerica Park.

Maybe that's what these slumping Detroit hitters need in this World Series. Metal bats, rather than their weak wood.

``Oh, I don't know if they'd allow that,'' kidded Gage's grandpop, Tigers first base coach Tom Brookens. ``But the hitters definitely wouldn't mind.''

Something better change for Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Tigers real soon or their year is going to end real shortly. They totaled only three runs and 10 hits in San Francisco while falling into a 2-0 deficit against the Giants.

Game 3 is Saturday night, with Anibal Sanchez starting for Detroit against Ryan Vogelsong.

The Tigers are hoping that a switch in scenery - the ivy hanging on the center-field backdrop at Comerica has turned to autumn colors since the AL championship series - and a flip in pitchers might help.

Throttled by left-handed starters Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner at AT&T Park, the Tigers are eager to see a right-hander. Any right-hander, in fact: Detroit batted .275 against righties, .253 vs. lefties.

``Sometimes you can't explain it,'' Tigers catcher Alex Avila said before a workout Friday. ``In our case, we've had trouble all year with left-handed pitching, which is strange because we have a lot of good hitters on the team.''

``It'll be a nice change, obviously, to face a right-hander because we've had more success.''

The Tigers will see Vogelsong, followed by fellow right-hander Matt Cain in Game 4.

``We've gone through spurts this whole season where we've thrown the ball like this as a staff,'' Vogelsong said. ``We obviously had our downtime there in the middle of September and at the end of August.''

``And we're just all kind of hitting our stride here at the same time. It's up to me and Matt now to keep it going over here in Detroit.''

Tigers manager Jim Leyland plans to insert speedy rookie Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks in his outfield.

A few big hits would certainly energize the Tigers. So might a few breaks, they believe.

``The ball just hasn't rolled our way yet,'' Berry said. ``They got a hit off the third-base bag. They had a bunt that wouldn't go foul. They made great catches in left field.

``But no excuses. We're back at home, this is our chance.''

No mistaking that the Series has shifted from California to Michigan.

In San Francisco, it was downright balmy in the 60s, and made for a pair of picture-perfect settings to play ball.

At Comerica, it was in the mid-40s and the lights were turned on while the Tigers worked out. The forecast was for Game 3 was for temperatures to drop into the upper 30s in the later innings.

``We have got heaters in the dugout for both teams, obviously. Ours is going to be a little warmer than theirs, I think, tomorrow night,'' Leyland said. ``But that's all right. We're not going to tell them that. I'm just kidding.''

``You know what? It's cold, but I mean this is the World Series. It's cold for everybody. It's cold for the fans, the beer is cold, everything is cold. It's great. Enjoy it.''

While the Tigers have lost five straight World Series games dating to 2006 against St. Louis, they've also won five postseason home games in a row. Detroit began that string last year in the ALCS, took two against Oakland this year in the division series and then finished off an ALCS sweep of the Yankees.

Overall, the Tigers have taken eight straight at home.

``I think a lot of teams, your really good teams, they dominate at home. That's what they do - the Cardinals, the Reds, they were really tough at home,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

``We ended up having a pretty good home record, despite having some struggles there in September or late August. But it's a team that feeds on probably their home crowd, and they're more comfortable at home, and that's usually the case in baseball. But this certainly is a club that we know is playing very well here.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.