Tigers manager Jim Leyland made one thing clear before even touching on the topic of tough postseason moves: ``I'm not going to pinch hit for Cabrera.''
Nope, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera would be batting for the Tigers with the season on the line, all right. Even after Yankees manager Joe Girardi's switch to pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez in place of Alex Rodriguez paid off huge with a stunning two-homer night in Wednesday's 3-2, 12-inning victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
``You have to be prepared for everything. And you try to be prepared for everything,'' Leyland said before Game 5 of the AL division series in Oakland.
Leyland spent the afternoon leading up to Thursday's game watching baseball with his wife at the team hotel. But he still had plenty of thoughts about two thrillers on each coast a night earlier.
Ibanez hit a tying homer in the bottom of the ninth and a game-ending drive in the 12th.
``So far it's been a great postseason,'' Leyland said. ``What happened last night in New York is mind-boggling.''
Detroit led its best-of-five division series 2-0 when it arrived in Oakland, but lost the next two. The A's rallied for a 4-3 victory against closer Jose Valverde on Wednesday in another dramatic finish for the low-budget club.
Leyland has seen it all in 21 years as a manager and knows not to get too high or too low at this stage.
``I don't want to sound casual about this kind of stuff because, don't get me wrong, the game broke our heart,'' Leyland said. ``But at the same time, you learn over the years that, like I always use the expression, you can't chew yesterday's breakfast. The game is over. They beat us. They earned it.''
TEDDY WINS AGAIN: It's been a big couple of weeks for Teddy Roosevelt.
First the 10-foot-tall foam rendering of the ol' Rough Rider finally got to win the Presidents Race mascot contest at Nationals Park. Now one of his speeches was used to fire up the Washington Nationals before they went out and forced a Game 5 in their NL division series by beating the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 Thursday.
``Our backs were against the wall. I wanted to say something that brought us together, a band of brothers who go out fighting and see what happens,'' said Mark DeRosa, the veteran utility player who was left off Washington's playoff roster but is a key presence in the clubhouse.
He read from Roosevelt's ``Man in the Arena'' speech, delivered in Paris in 1910, which includes the lines: ``The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ... and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.''
DeRosa used the karaoke machine he often speaks through to kid around with teammates before games, sprinkling his speech with swear words as players got dressed Thursday.
He said right fielder Jayson Werth ``heard it and came running.''
Hours later, Werth won Game 4 and kept Washington's season going with a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.
REMOTE CHANCE: Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth had no problem avoiding the constant TV replays of Raul Ibanez's two homers that led the Yankees to a 3-2, 12-inning victory in Game 3.
His wife was with him in New York.
When his wife traveled with the team, McLouth has little chance at watching sports recap shows.
``I can promise you we're not watching many highlights after the game, unless they show them on the Food Network,'' McLouth said.
McLouth has a team-high four hits in 13 at-bats in the postseason entering Game 4 but he doesn't get control of the remote in the hotel.
``I think we stuck with `Property Brothers' last night, so I haven't seen the replay yet,'' he said. ``It's not something you want to sit there and watch 10 times in your room afterwards.''
SHIFTING SPOTS: Oakland's Josh Donaldson looked like a natural third baseman when he dived into foul territory to rob Detroit's Jhonny Peralta of a hit late in Game 4 of their AL division series.
Yet Donaldson, a catcher by trade, had never played third base in the majors until this season but has excelled there for the Athletics since being recalled from the minors in August.
``Josh Donaldson is a great athlete,'' manager Bob Melvin said. ``His position is catcher, but he could probably play anywhere on the diamond. He's a football player, baseball player, truly a guy that could probably play anywhere on the diamond. We're lucky to have those athletes.''
Donaldson is far from alone in learning a new position in Oakland's patchwork infield. Outfielder Brandon Moss became a power-hitting first baseman who looks natural scooping throws in the dirt and shortstop Cliff Pennington moved to second base late in the season.
Only shortstop Stephen Drew is playing his natural position in the playoffs for the A's.
``It's been a little bit of a work-in-progress,'' Melvin said. ``I think our defense is as good as it's been all year now.''