Notes from Game One of the American League Championship Series:
Hitting? We don’t need no steenkin’ hitting
Maybe we don’t need to worry about the offense, Tiger fans? Despite being limited to one run and failing to capitalize on several scoring chances, the Detroit Tigers won Game One of the ALCS when Anibal Sanchez and a slew of relievers nearly no-hit the Boston Red Sox. Tiger pitching is so good, and peaking at the right time, that it may not matter that the only guy hitting right now is Jhonny Peralta, who spent 50 games on the sidelines before being reinstated in the last weekend of the regular season.
When he’s filthy, Sanchez will walk some batters
A sure sign that Ani was going to be on his game last night was the fact that he walked six batters, and early in the game his slider was moving so sharply that it gave Alex Avila fits, so much so that the right-hander struck out four batters in the first inning (one batter reached on a wild pitch). The only other time that has happened in postseason play was the 1908 World Series, and Detroit was involved that time too. Cubs’ pitcher Orval Overall fanned Charley O’Leary, Ty Cobb, Claude Rossman (safe on a passed ball), and Germany Schaefer at Bennett Park at The Corner.
If Prince gets going, this offense gets going
In 19 postseason games with Detroit, Prince Fielder had exactly ONE extra-base hit. He’s hitting .205 in October as a Tiger, and not surprisingly he has only three RBI. Cabrera and Hunter are getting on base enough in front of him, but Prince has yet to get that huge pop with runners on base. There were some good signs from Game One – Fielder lined a shot to right field with authority. But he must reach the seats or at least the gaps when Detroit has runners on the bases. If he does, I think the floodgates will start to open and Detroit will put some crooked numbers up.
FOX is just terrible
I don’t think I have to list all of the reasons that FOX broadcasts are so despised by baseball fans everywhere. But during Game One they were at their usual low level. The director seemed to fall in love with the “fan shot” – showing us Boston faithful nervously and anxiously watching the game. It was especially overused late in the game when the Sox were still being no-hit. I have never, EVER gone to a baseball game to see the fans. I have been lucky enough to attend some exciting and important baseball games, and not once at a critical moment in the tense action have I looked around me in the stands. Please, for the love of all things holy, FOX, stop showing us the closeups of the people who paid to be there. We’re fans, we know how nervous the situation is for fans. Show us something we don’t normally see – show us the reactions from players and the coaching staff, show us where the players are on the field. Is the third baseman on the line? How deep are the outfielders? And so on. Don’t be cute and don’t try to manufacture drama. This isn’t a scripted TV show, it’s live sports.
It’s time for AJax to be slipped down in the lineup
In six postseason games, Austin Jackson is 3-for-25 with just one extra-base hit. Of his 22 outs, 15 have been made by strikeout. Also disturbing: the Tiger leadoff man has walked only once this October. His swing (which has always been long) is as slow as a glacier drifting in the Arctic. Does he need glasses? (I’m being serious – maybe someone should check his eyes) Or maybe he needs to play winter ball to figure this stuff out. But the Tigers don’t have time to fix their leadoff hitter. He’s scored just once in the playoffs, because he can’t make contact and isn’t getting on base. It’s pretty obvious that he’s lost at the plate and he’s feeling the pressure. Hitting in the 1-spot, Jackson is getting 5 plate appearances a night. Jim Leyland needs to get someone else in that spot, like Torii Hunter, a veteran who makes contact more often and works the count. With their offense scuffling and runs being scarce in the postseason, Leyland needs to get someone in front of Cabrera and Fielder who can get on base.
The Tigers have their shortstop of the future
Two plays in Game One confirm the fact that young Jose Iglesias is a special player with the glove. Iglesias fielded a one-hop rocket late in the game and recovered quickly to get the force at first for the final out of the inning. Earlier, Iglesias ranged toward the middle of the diamond to field a bouncer and make (for him) a routine play. Jhonny Peralta doesn’t make either of those plays. We should never see Jhonny at short again, and say what you want about giving up Avisail Garcia to get Iglesias, but the young Cuban shortstop will be making dazzling plays for years to come in Detroit. He has multiple Gold Gloves in his future.
Captain Hook revisited
For the third straight playoff game (all victories), Leyland used his bullpen masterfully, and he wasn’t afraid to yank a starter when he felt the time was right. Drew Smyly has had good success against David Ortiz, and performed his LOOGY role perfectly. Joe Veras, who has nasty stuff when he’s on, was on, and made the Red Sox batters look bad in his brief appearance. Al Al had as nasty a stuff as he’s had in a while. If the Tigers bullpen pitches this well, it might be a short series.
Miggy is poised to do some damage
The last time Miguel Cabrera failed to reach base in a postseason game was Game Six of the 2003 World Series, when he was a 20-year old rookie playing for the Florida Marlins. Want high return on investment? Miggy’s reached base in all 30 postseason games he’s played for Detroit. This postseason he’s recorded a hit in all six games, but he has just three RBI. Going back to Game Five against Oakland, Cabrera has had several really good swings. It appears that he has his legs under him a lot better. He nearly hit a home run in the first inning, the baseball curling in front of Pesky’s Pole by about a foot. I expect him to do some damage very soon.