Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:32 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 1:39 am

Blunders cost Tigers as Rangers blast way to win

By Evan Brunell

DETROIT -- The Rangers rode a four-run 11th inning to victory, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead in the ALCS against the Tigers.

Hero: The Napoli man can. Mike Napoli strode to the plate with runners on first and second in the 11th inning in a tie ballgame. For some reason, skipper Jim Leyland thought it would be a good idea to intentionally walk the 0-for-4 Adrian Beltre in front of Napoli to set up a force, after Josh Hamilton (pictured) doubled to begin the inning. After the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "You're just trying to set up a double play. I didn't want Beltre and Napoli both to hit against [reliever Jose Valverde]."

Problem: Napoli ripped a single into center field for his second hit of the game, scoring the go-ahead run. Look, Beltre is a dangerous hitter, but so is Napoli. In that situation, I take my risks with Beltre, who is more aggressive at the plate and may still have been hurting from fouling a ball off his knee in Game 3.

ALCS Coverage
Goat: The Tigers tried way too hard to make something happen in the 10th inning when Austin Jackson was gifted first base on a hit by pitch. The Rangers still had to get through Ryan Raburn and Miguel Cabrera to end the inning, and yet Austin Jackson took matters into his own hand and tried to steal second, a move Leyland said he agreed with. Jackson was thrown out at second, which was an idiotic move. You can't take the stick out of Cabrera's hands, especially in the bottom of the 10th inning. Sure, Raburn could have hit into a double-play, but give him that chance instead of risking Jackson being caught stealing. The Rangers wouldn't allow Detroit another chance to win.

Turning point: The Rangers finally broke through for three runs in the sixth to take the lead. The man responsible for the go-ahead run in Michael Young had been struggling all postseason long, but finally came through in a big spot by singling in Elvis Andrus. David Murphy opened the sixth with a single, then after a popout, Ian Kinsler doubled to deep left where Delmon Young misplayed the carom and allowed Murphy to score. Andrus followed by plating Kinsler, who was on third after stealing a base. A Hamilton flyout and Porcello pickoff error later, Andrus crossed the plate on Young's single to completely deflate the Detroit crowd.
It took a while for the next run to be scored, but extra innings don't happen without this inning.

It was over when... The Tigers kept making mistake after mistake in the late innings and were burned like crazy in the 11th when they intentionally walked Adrian Beltre only to see Mike Napoli deliver a RBI single. But the game wasn't over at that point -- after all, Texas only had a one-run edge. But then Nelson Cruz blasted a three-run homer that put the stamp on the game. Cruz is the only player to ever hit two extra-inning homers in a postseason series.

Next: Detroit will attempt to stave off elimination by sending Justin Verlander to the hill at 4:19 p.m. ET. The Rangers counter with their own ace, C.J. Wilson.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 12:00 am

Michael Young finally comes through for Rangers


By Evan Brunell

DETROIT -- Michael Young's struggles in the postseason has been a popular topic as manager Ron Washington keeps insisting on running Young out in the cleanup spot.

On one hand, you can understand Washington's rationale. Young hit .338 in the regular season and will probably get some MVP votes. You don't suddenly move on from your cleanup hitter after a few bad games, but Young was especially helpless this October, collecting just three singles in 29 plate appearances, plus two walks. That's simply horrid production from an integral spot in the lineup.

"Michael has done a great job for us there, simply because he hits a spell where things aren't going well, for me to make that type of change would be panic," Washington said prior to the game. In essence, he's largely right. It's important for players to have a chance to play out of their slumps, and so far in October, it hadn't bitten Texas to keep Young in the cleanup spot. But things looked to be changing Tuesday when Detroit jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind the commanding arm of Rick Porcello.

"We are talking about Michael Young. Seven years of 200 hits," Washington said.

The skipper's confidence in Young finally paid off in the sixth inning after he had already gone 0 for 2 and looked silly on a fourth-inning strikeout. With Elvis Andrus on first base and two runners in, Young ripped a single to center field to plate Andrus with the go-ahead run and stun Tigers fans. Suddenly, Young had put Texas in the lead with a great chance of extending the series lead three games to one. It was Young's first RBI in his last 30 at-bats, but it was a major RBI that could be the turning point of the series.

"Today could be the day that Michael Young stops all this talk about him hitting in the fourth slot and hitting .111," Washington cautioned. He proved to be correct.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:56 pm

ALCS Game 4 delayed

By Evan Brunell

Game 4 of the ALCS has been delayed once again due to inclement weather.

After an original time of 4:19 p.m. ET, the game was pushed back to 5:15, then 5:45, and now MLB has announced a start time of 6:30. MLB spokesman Peter Woodfork said that there appeared to be four hours of relatively clear weather on the way, which should be enough time for the game to complete. Woodfork said MLB wanted to avoid any instances of the game starting and stopping repeatedly, which happened in Game 1, and which is why they have held it off to 6:30 p.m. The tarp is coming off the field as of 5:50 p.m., which will allow groundskeepers time to prepare the field and players to go through their pre-game routines before commencing the game.

No one expected rain to be an issue on Wednesday. In fact, everyone was looking ahead to Thursday's Game 5 as the game that could be in serious danger, but the weather systems obviously had a mind of its own. It's been steadily raining -- not heavily, but enough to bust out umbrellas -- since late morning.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:59 pm

Fister puts on clinic, Tigers win first ALCS game


By Evan Brunell

DETROIT -- "I thought he put on a clinic."

"I thought he put on a pitching clinic."

"I thought it was a pitching clinic."

"Like I said, I thought he put on a clinic."

Naw, Jim Leyland, tell us how you really feel about Doug Fister's start Tuesday night.

As might be evident to you by now, Fister put on a clinic Tuesday night, baffling the Rangers over 7 1/3 innings to hand Detroit its first ALCS victory of the season, narrowing the series to a 2-1 edge in favor of Texas. It was an amazing performance by the righty, even as he saw three seeing-eye singles ding him for a run in the first, taking the air out of the crowd. By the time he left the game a couple hours later, the Tigers were in pole position to win the game.

"Good sink, good breaking ball, good command," manager Ron Washington raved about Fister after the game. "The first nine or ten pitches he threw in the ballgame were strikes. That's him. He attacked the strike zone. He's going to make you put the ball in play. He did a good job tonight. You have to tip your hat."

Fister's start was not only series-saving, it made history. He is just the sixth pitcher since 1990 to pitch at least seven innings and allow no more than two earned runs in his ALCS debut. The last pitcher to do so was Jon Garland in 2005. Fister didn't allow the Rangers to catch their breath, and even as a notoriously aggressive team, couldn't capitalize on any mistakes -- if there even were any -- by Fister. The strike-machine pumped 73 strikes into Alex Avila's glove, notching 102 overall. Despite racking up the strikes and facing a free-swinging team, Fister only collected three strikeouts, but he's fine with that.

"We were going to attack the zone with our fastball and keep it down and use the defense. We stuck with it," Fister said following the game.  "I'm not trying to get strikeouts. I'm looking for contact and let's go deep in the game."

Everyone knows the story of Fister by now. He was a middling prospect when he debuted with the Mariners two seasons ago and was never thought to be much more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. But suddenly, he started getting better and better and drew the attention of GM Dave Dombrowski in Detroit, who kept trying to acquire Fister. He finally did so at the trade deadline, then saw Fister rip off a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance. No one expects Fister to keep that up, but you won't see the Tigers complaining. He scuffled against the Yankees in the ALDS, but the team expressed confidence in Fister bouncing back and being the shutdown pitcher he displayed in the dog days of summer. He did just that, and left to a standing ovation from the crowd, tipping his cap multiple times.

"We're at home here in front of fans, and everybody is standing on their feet waving those white flags," Fister said. "It gives me goosebumps to remember walking off on that."

It's giving Tigers fans goosebumps to watch him pitch.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:59 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 1:40 am

Beltre, Martinez show Red Sox what they lost


By Evan Brunell

DETROIT -- Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, dueling against each other in the ALCS, were teammates on the Red Sox last season and helped foster a healthy clubhouse with their leadership, which the Rangers and Tigers, respectively, have raved about. On Tuesday night, each displayed just what might have been missing on the Red Sox this season.

Beltre came to the plate with one out in the fourth inning and took a massive hack against Doug Fister, fouling a ball off his left knee. He collapsed to the ground, and just like Nelson Cruz's hit-by-pitch off the wrist in Game 2, sent fear in the heart of Ranger Nation. Given Beltre's reaction, it would have been completely understandable for him to bail out of the game. But the third-baseman was having none of it, holding off the trainer and continuing the at-bat, despite clearly being hampered by the injury. He grounded out, hobbling to first base all the while. (X-rays following the game were negative.) Certainly, in the regular season with nothing on the line, Beltre likely would have been taken out -- but this is October, after all, and Beltre's never been a player that lets injuries stand in his way. This is a man who once fractured his testicle, for crying out loud ... and kept playing.

So no, Beltre wasn't coming out.

Then, in the bottom fourth, it was his ex-teammate's turn to show some fortitude. Martinez stepped to the plate with the Tigers down 1-0 and the crowd increasingly demoralized... and rocketed a home run to left field. Bedlam from the crowd, but Martinez instantly grimaced and stumbled toward the ground before gingerly running around the bases. This was a huge homer for Detroit, and all that happened was a casual fist-bump by Don Kelly in the on-deck circle, and then a somber reception in the dugout without the usual high-fives. Martinez immediately slammed his helmet before disappearing into the clubhouse tunnel, and it looked as if V-Mart may have fallen victim to an intercostal muscle strain.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the fifth. Miguel Cabrera at the plate with runners in scoring position, a situation the Tigers have struggled through all postseason. The TV cameras showed Martinez speaking to Leyland in the dugout, clearly not right. However, he headed to the on-deck circle with many theorizing that this was a fake-out to make the Rangers think V-Mart was going to hit and perhaps make an incorrect pitching coach before Martinez was pinch-hit for. That feeling was only furthered more when he didn't take any swings and watched Miggy blast a RBI double. And yet, Martinez stayed in the game. (CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler says Martinez is expected to play in Game 4 as well... surprise, surprise.) He didn't swing once in the at-bat, but worked a walk. You could tell that there was absolutely no way that Martinez was coming out of the game. This is a man who told reporters on Sept. 28 after injuring his big toe, "You're going to have to kill me to keep me out of the lineup." And after Game 3? "I will play tomorrow unless I am dead when I wake up."

So no, Martinez wasn't coming out.

On a night where the Red Sox's epic collapse may have claimed it's biggest victim yet in GM Theo Epstein, two players he allowed to leave in free agency showed on baseball's brightest stage the perseverance strangely lacking in Boston this season. And perhaps that's why the Red Sox are sitting at home with Red Sox Nation crumbling.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 4:50 pm

ALCS Game 4: Tigers look to even up series

Porcello, Harrison

By Evan Brunell

UPDATE: The start of Game 4 has been pushed back due to rain. Click here for more information.

DETROIT --  Rangers at Tigers, 4:19 p.m. ET, October 12, Comerica Park

The Tigers finally broke out at home, riding three solo home runs and (finally) an extra-base hit with runners ins coring position to victory, narrowing the ALCS series to 2-1. Given the victory, Detroit won't need to field questions on whether Justin Verlander should start in Game 4, leaving the eventual AL Cy Young Award winner to start Game 5. Texas still has the edge in the series, but suddenly this is a series worth watching.


While the Rangers obviously have the edge in the series so far, things could change on a dime Wednesday given the Tigers' success against Matt Harrison the last few years. Most notably, Ryan Raburn is an insane 8-for-12 off of Harrison with two homers. Brandon Inge, Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson also have succeeded against Harrison extensively, so if there was a game for Detroit to win, it's this one.

Texas isn't as familiar with Detroit's Rick Porcello, but Michael Young and David Murphy have all experienced success against the sinkerballer, while Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli all have just one hit against Porcello -- but all three have walked to the plate just seven times against Porcello, which isn't much to draw from as far as evaluating which players could give Porcello a hurting.

With the absence of Magglio Ordonez and possibly Delmon Young (who sat out Games 1 and 3 with injury), the Tigers' offense is pretty weak -- and don't forget about Victor Martinez coming up lame during his home run, possibly straining his oblique. Combine that with defense that is far from excellent (unlike Texas), and you have a convincing case for Texas to take a 3-1 series lead.

Rangers' Matt Harrison: It seems like such a long time ago, but Harrison is fresh off striking out nine Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS. While the amount of whiffs he sustained forced him out of the game after five innings, it was still an incredible performance for Harrison, and he'll look to send Texas to within one game of the Fall Classic in Game 4.

Harrison will be going on a full seven days' rest, which is a lot. He's thrown two side sessions and also tossed in the bullpen during Game 1 just in case he was needed thanks to the rain outs, so his arm should be fine. His performance against the Tigers might be a different story, as he gave up eight runs (one unearned) in two starts against Detroit this season, lasting just 12 innings. Add in three stints against the Tigers last season, coughing up eight runs in 10 1/3 innings, and one has to wonder just how effective the lefty can be.

"You just have to be aggressive against these guys," Harrison said, noting how Scott Feldman kept the ball down the zone and went after hitters, holding Detroit scoreless for 4 1/3 innings in relief of Derek Holland during Game 3. "Try to limit the mistakes, keep the ball in the corners."

Tigers' Rick Porcello: Leyland was adamant that Porcello would start Game 4, win or lose. Well, here we are, and Leyland's getting his wish.

Hey, Porcello has the ability to one day be fronting Detroit's rotation, but that time simply isn't now and it's hard to get optimistic about a righty who made 31 starts, tossed 181 innings and struck out 104 while walking 46. There's a reason Porcello was the No. 4 starter all season long and if Brad Penny had bothered to produce, he wouldn't even be starting in the postseason. The one benefit to Porcello is he induces grounders at a pretty good clip, but the defense has to be there behind him to make the plays. Given the Tigers' defense isn't exactly elite caliber, that doesn't work in his favor.

The 22-year-old will be making his second appearance of the ALCS after throwing 22 pitches in relief in Game 1, but he says he is fully prepared to go.

"I feel good. My arm feels fresh," Porcello said. I feel like the ball is coming out of my hand better now than it was earlier in the year. I'll be ready to go, and physically everything will be there."

Advanced pitching metrics do like Porcello, giving him a fielding-independent 4.02 ERA, so he could bust out with a start that clinches a return to Texas.


Rangers Tigers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Austin Jackson CF
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Ryan Raburn RF
3 Josh Hamilton CF 3  Miguel Cabrera 1B
4 Michael Young 1B 4 Victor Martinez DH
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 Delmon Young LF
6 Mike Napoli C 6 Alex Avila C
7 Nelson Cruz RF 7 Jhonny Peralta SS
8 David Murphy LF 8 Ramon Santiago 2B
9 Yorvit Torrealba DH 9 Brandon Inge 3B

Matt Harrison LHP
Rick Porcello RHP


  • Since Comerica Park opened in 2000, Texas has the worst winning percentage at the park of any team, going just 23-35, including Tuesday's Game 2 loss. It's even worse since Washington took over as Texas' manager, as the club has combined to go 7-18.
  • Miguel Cabrera extended his ALCS hitting streak to 10, which is third-longest to start a career. The all-time record is 13 straight, set by Greg Luzinski from the 1976-1980 ALCS, playing for Philadelphia. Orlando Cabrera is the last player to collect at least one hit in 10 straight games, accomplishing the feat from 2004 with the Red Sox through 2005 with the Angels.
  • Flamethrower Joel Zumaya, the oft-injured Tigers reliever whose 2011 season ended before it began, was in town to take in the ALCS. Zumaya has been working out at Detroit's spring-training home all season and this is his first time back in Detroit since last season. He will be a free agent and hopes to stay with Detroit. "I started here and I wish I could end here," he said.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:14 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:40 am

Rangers can't hold Tigers at bay, fall 5-2

By Evan Brunell

DETROIT -- The Tigers love the home cooking and rode three solo home runs and an extra-base hit with runners in scoring position to take Game 3 of the ALCS, 5-2. The win narrows the Rangers' lead in the series two games to one.

Hero: Doug Fister came up huge in a virtual must-win game for the Tigers, throwing 7 1/3 strong innings, punching out three and allowing seven hits. Fister had been knocked around in the ALDS, and it was fair to wonder if he was regressing to the mean after unsustainably killing it as a member of the Tigers in the regular season. Nope. Fister's outing was just what the Tigers needed after Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were unable to keep the Rangers at bay.


Goat: It may be unfair to pick on Koji Uehara when it was Colby Lewis that relinquished the lead, but so be it. Uehara, you'll recall, gave up three runs and a homer against the Rays in Game 2 of the ALDS without recording an out. That was the extent of his pitching in the postseason until Tuesday night, when Ron Washington asked Uehara to stop the bleeding. Well, he didn't. Uehara relieved Lewis with a runner on first that he allowed to score, then gave up a solo homer in the seventh to ice the game for Detroit.

Turning point: Until Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers were 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the postseason, and had collected only one extra-base hit with RISP over the last 32 innings. The lone Tiger run that had scored up to that point was on a solo homer by Victor Martinez (pictured). That changed when Miguel Cabrera took a grooved 0-2 fastball from Colby Lewis and lined it to right-field, plating the go-ahead run, and giving Detroit a lead it would not relinquish.

It was over when … It took a while for Detroit to get going with the stick, but a Jhonny Peralta homer in the bottom sixth gave Detroit an insurance run that suddenly made it very difficult for Texas to engineer a comeback with Detroit needing just nine outs from Fister and the bullpen. After an Andy Dirks single to knock Colby Lewis out of the game, Austin Jackson finally came through to plate another run and then it was really over, but Miguel Cabrera added a solo blast just for extra measure.

Next: Detroit will attempt to even up the series on Wednesday when it offers up No. 4 starter Rick Porcello up against Texas' Matt Harrison.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:32 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 9:33 pm

Tigers must step up, drive in runs or lose series


By Evan Brunell

Only once in baseball history has a team come back from a 3-0 series deficit. The Tigers would rather not fight history, but continue to struggle at the plate.

If it wasn't for Victor Martinez, the Tigers would be looking at a 1-0 deficit entering the fifth inning. Still, the story in the early going has to be Detroit's continued failure to capitalize on runners in scoring position. Detroit had a chance to answer Texas' jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Martinez and Jhonny Peralta reached base in the bottom of the second, but Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn both struck out swinging to end the threat. That pushed Detroit to a scant 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position in the ALCS, and as Buster Olney of ESPN notes, the Tigers have only collected one extra-base hit (double) in the last 32 innings with runners in scoring position.

Fortunately, Martinez tied up the game with a solo homer in the bottom fourth. (And of course, it looks like V-Mart may have hurt his oblique on that swing, which would deplete the Detroit offense even more.) The Tigers' struggles with RISP are irrelevant as long as Detroit keeps jacking homers, but this isn't a team that can rely on the long ball, not with a lineup that is essentially a non-entity aside from Martinez and Miguel Cabrera (pictured). RISP has been a problem all October, as the TIgers are just 4 for 28 overall with four singles and 10 strikeouts.

As Jim Leyland mentioned Monday after the Rangers finally broke through with a walkoff grand slam after threatening numerous times throughout the game, "
If you keep giving a team like that that many opportunities they're going to get you eventually, and eventually they got us."

The Tigers are in a similar place -- it's not as if the team has been a complete zero on offense the entire postseason. They've hung tough with Texas, but the Rangers have shown the fortitude to capitalize on opportunities. For whatever reason -- blame luck of the draw, blame lack of experience, blame whatever you want -- the same can't be said of Detroit. If the Tigers hope to win the ALCS, it's time they stop waiting around for the home run and start swinging together some rallies and get this offense in a groove.

Follow the game live on CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com