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.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 5:43 pm

Delmon Young scratched from Game 3 lineup

YoungBy Evan Brunell

Just a day after returning to his customary spot at No. 3 in the lineup for the Tigers, Delmon Young is once again out of the lineup.

"Delmon is obviously hurting too bad to play," manager Jim Leyland said, noting that Young's oblique stiffened up and is sore. Young was 0-for-4 on Monday and did not look good in left field, so the Tigers may not be losing much having him absent from the lineup. Leyland refused to speculate on when or if Young could return, saying that it's all up in the air.

"He came in really stiff and sore today," Leyland said. "Could he be ready for one of their left-handers in the next day or so? I don't really know how to answer that. I would rather not just get into that. I'm not a medical person. I don't know."

Andy Dirks will play in Young's place, batting ninth and in right field with Ryan Raburn in left. Dirks isn't a name many know, but those following the ALCS will remember Dirks as the man who couldn't make a play on a fly ball in right field during Game 3 that allowed the bases to load for Nelson Cruz's eventual walkoff grand slam.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:48 am

Remembering Ventura's grand slam single

By Matt Snyder

Aside from Albert Pujols reminding everyone he's still Albert Pujols, the big story in baseball Monday night was Nelson Cruz's walk-off grand slam giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the ALCS. Cruz's blast was the first walk-off grand slam in MLB postseason history.

And, if you're like me, your reaction to hearing that news was: "No, that's not true ... oh, wait ... that is right."

Because in the 1999 NLCS, Mets third baseman Robin Ventura came to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th inning in Shea Stadium with a tie game. And he hit a Kevin McGlinchy pitch over the right-center field wall to beat the Braves. It wouldn't be a technical grand slam, however, because Ventura's teammates mobbed him before he could reach second base. Thus, the official scorebook says it was a walk-off single. Ventura only got one RBI for it.

Here's the highlight, via MLB.com:

It's funny, two weeks ago Ventura hadn't been in the news in ages, other than for someone to mock him for being used as Nolan Ryan's punching bag once upon a time. All of a sudden, he's the White Sox manager and we get to reminisce about his grand slam that wasn't.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:21 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 9:28 am

Cruz slam a big winner for gambling fans

By Matt Snyder

While betting on baseball isn't near as prevalent as in football or basketball, it still happens. And wouldn't you know it, the over/under for Monday's Rangers-Tigers ALCS Game 2 was nine. So heading into extra innings knotted at three meant those who had the under felt like it was a definite win and those who had the over probably gave up. Certainly the two teams wouldn't combine for four more runs when one run by either club could win it.

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Hitting the over was even more improbable when the Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out. One run wins the game. Literally, the only possible outcome that could result in an "over" bet winning was a grand slam. Any other type of hit, a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly ... anything, and the under wins. But Cruz came through with the slam, winning the game for the Rangers. In the process, he won millions of dollars collectively for the betting public.

Roughly two-thirds of the approximately $4.5 million in action worldwide was on the over, RJ Bell, founder of Pregame.com tells CBSSports.com.

"So the OVER cashing allowed the players to MAKE $1.5 million in net (over bettors won $3 million, under bettors lost $1.5 million); rather than losing $1.5 million in net (3 mill loss, 1.5 won)," Bell said in an email. "Meaning the Grand Slam made a $3 million dollar positive difference for players worldwide."

We often hear the lament or joy of gamblers on meaningless 3-pointers or touchdowns, so now baseball has its own high-profile case of one swing shifting the balance of money so significantly.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:14 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 5:01 pm

ALCS Game 3: Tigers scramble to avoid hole

Lewis, Fister

By Evan Brunell

Rangers at Tigers, 8:05 p.m. ET, October 11, Rangers Ballpark

ARLINGTON, Texas --  The Rangers shocked the Tigers with a walkoff grand slam, the first in postseason history. Obviously, Texas is on a roll and riding momentum with a 2-0 series lead, but no one should expect Detroit to just roll over and play dead. A 2-0 series lead is imposing, but not insurmountable. And now that the series is shifting to Comerica Park, the Tigers will have something they haven't had yet in the ALCS -- last ups.

"It can't change the approach for the pitcher at all," Tigers starting pitcher Fister said of the pressure facing him. "It doesn't change the mindset, it doesn't change how you attack hitters."

Let's be honest -- it's going to be tough for the Tigers to bounce back from this. It's not as if they can point to a major gaffe, or to a bad day by a player. Detroit played hard and was in every game until virtually the last out. And yet, the ball hasn't bounced their way... twice. Mentally, that has to take a toll. It will be interesting to see how the game unfolds.


The Rangers are obviously riding the momentum and get to offer up Colby Lewis in Game 3 in a prime opportunity to take a stranglehold in the ALCS. But the Tigers counter with Doug Fister, who threw up a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance for the Tigers after coming over from Seattle.

It'll be a hard-fought battle, and the Tigers will look for Fister to hold the Texas offense in check. Nelson Cruz, who struggled through September and the ALDS before exploding in the ALCS and taking pole position in the series MVP department, has seven hits in 14 at-bats against Fister. David Murphy has also experienced success, but for the most part, Ranger hitters struggle against the righty, led by Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Elvis Andrus.

On the flip side, the Tigers have hit Lewis well (more on this below). Alex Avila has two home runs and will look to bust out of his slump at just the right time for Detroit, while both Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera have combined to collect 11 hits in 27 at-bats. Fortunately for Lewis, the game is being played at Comerica Park, which has a spacious outfield and should play right into Lewis' hands as a flyball pitcher, especially with left-center field preventing righties from launching home runs.

The pitching matchup is as even as it can get, but the Rangers' offense has been more impressive in the early going and is riding a ton of momentum, so the edge has to be given to Texas.

Rangers' Colby Lewis: Lewis hasn't had much success with the Tigers this season, getting rocked for 13 earned runs over two starts totaling just 7 1/3 innings, but that doesn't faze the right-hander staring at a 2-0 series lead.

"You don't really worry about anything in the past," Lewis said. "Once it's over, it's done with, you just walk in the dugout and forgetabout it and move forward." Lewis also noted that he was successful last season against the Tigers, but that's not entirely true. In three starts, Lewis has a 4.66 ERA. That's a massive improvement over his performance in 2011 against the Tigers, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

What does is Lewis' impeccable postseason record. Since returning from Japan and joining the Rangers in 2010, Lewis has a 1.65 ERA in five starts, including holding the Yankees to one run in six innings during his Game 3 ALCS start. Now, Lewis is a grizzled veteran and ready to halt Detroit's start to the ALCS.

"The more you do it, the more you go out there [in the playoffs], the more you understand what it takes to perform and be on that stage," he said.

Tigers' Doug Fister: As mentioned, Fister has been a revelation since arriving in Detroit. However, no one truly believes he's as good as he's displayed in a Tigers uniform and he was lucky enough to face weak opponents down the stretch. He struggled in the ALDS against the Yankees giving up seven runs in 9 2/3 innings.

But he's home now, in Comerica Field, where he's spun a dazzling 1.61 ERA over the 2011 season. Fister credits the Detroit crowd with getting him ready for the game. "We sit back, we watch everybody standing on their feet waving the white towels. It's something that gives you chills to be a part of," Fister said.

Fister has seen the Rangers twice this season, one apiece as a Mariner and Tiger and has held them in check for six runs in 14 1/3 innings, but he's only struck out just one batter, so he'll need his defense active behind him. The way he's performed so far, the defense will be more than happy to pick up the slack.

"I would be lying if I said we thought he would be this good," manager Jim Leyland said. "He doesn't seem to be rattled. He's aggressive. He's a fierce competitor."

All qualities that need to be displayed on Tuesday night if the Tigers don't want to dig themselves a hole that only one baseball team has ever come back from.


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

Colby Lewis RHP
Doug Fister RHP

Note: Delmon Young was originally slated to hit third, but he's been scratched from the lineup due to his injury flaring up.


  • Elvis Andrus had a strong game for the Rangers, going 1-for-4 with two walks. He also made a pivotal catch late in the game that prevented a Tigers run. Overall, a good game for someone who hadn't been swinging the bat well and whose defense suffered earlier in the year. "He unseated a Gold Glover at shortstop as a 20-year-old," Washington said. "Twenty-one years old, he was in the World Series. When you're that young and you're that successful, sometimes you take things for granted. The thing about this game of baseball, it will humble you. He got a wake-up call with the way he was playing defense. His teammates let him know that the way he was doing it was unacceptable and he got refocused."
  • Tigers closer Jose Valverde went two innings, the first time this season he's gone more than one inning. Nice to see Leyland relying on Valverde more in October -- as he should be -- instead of allowing the soft underbelly of middle relief to get burned. (Well, technically it did, but not until the 11th inning, and you can't help it at that point.)
  • Not having to worry about weather will be nice, and it looks like a nice night in Detroit. The temperature should be in the mid-60s at night with minimal chance of rain. A game will be getting in tonight. Wednesday, similarly, should be fine, but Game 5 on Thursday could be problematic.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:09 pm

Raburn, Kelly heroes in disappointing loss


By Evan Brunell

Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly weren't supposed to play pivotal roles for the Tigers in the playoffs.

And yet, if Detroit had come away with the victory, the story would have been about these two bench players who provided the bulk of the Tigers offense on Monday, collecting three of eight team hits. Raburn's lone hit was the biggest, launching a three-run homer that ended Derek Holland's night and put the Tigers ahead 3-2. It was even more significant given the Tigers' futility with runners in scoring position, having been just 2-for-29 dating back to Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees.

"I was just battling ... he kept throwing fastballs up in the zone," Raburn said of the homer, nothing that over time, the Tigers began sitting dead-red on Holland's fastball "For the most part, we battled him real well."

Unfortunately for Detroit, they couldn't capitalize on starter Derek Holland's wildness beyond Raburn's homers. Holland constantly played with fire, issuing four walks and throwing 80 percent fastballs, most of them up in the zone. Detroit kept clinging onto that 3-2 lead, though, with Raburn calling it "nerve-wracking," but things changed in the seventh inning thanks to a Nelson Cruz home run. (Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman, who hurled 4 1/3 innings of relief, said he thought "my beard was going to turn gray.")

Once that happened and the game was tied,
it was Kelly who gave the Tigers hope by doubling in the ninth inning with a runner on first. Unfortunately, that runner, Ramon Santiago, is far from a speedster and was held up at third base. There was some controversy as to whether Santiago would have scored, but Kelly didn't have any opinion on it as he didn't see the play unfold, but skipper Jim Leyland had his answer ready. "The ball came back to [Cruz in right field]," he said. "We were hoping it would kick back, but it didn't. It just came back to him and that's kind of the luck of the draw."

Cruz agreed, saying he got a good bounce and with a man on first base he had to play "no doubles, as close to the gap, as close to the wall. I picked it up as quick as I could. I even bobbled it a little bit. I threw the ball as quick as I could.'

After an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez popped out. That was the last and best chance Detroit had of coming away with a win and Detroit had to witness Cruz burning them yet again with a walkoff grand slam, the first walkoff in postseason franchise history.

"It's part of the game," Raburn said. "They're a great team out there. They battled."

Kelly concurred, but wasn't ready to give up and start packing his bags for home. "We had some tough games against the Yankees as well," he said, "and we were able to bounce back. That's what we're looking forward to doing tomorrow."

A 2-0 series lead is a tough obstacle to overcome, and going back to the creation of the best-of-seven LCS in 1985, 18 of 21 teams who have taken a 2-0 lead advanced to the playoffs. Those that didn't were the 1985 Blue Jays, Dodgers and 2004 Yankees. Kelly spoke about his experiences growing up as a kid and rooting for the Pirates, loving the chance Pittsburgh gave him as a child to celebrate victories. He's hoping the Tigers can come through for all the Detroit children now that the Tigers are headed back home.

"We've dealt with adversity all year long, and that's not going to change now," he said.

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Photo: Raburn

Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:47 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:12 pm

Cruz heroics send Texas to ALCS Game 2 win

By Evan Brunell

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers won Game 2, 7-3. The series is now in the Rangers' favor, 2-0.

Hero: With the first pitch of the ninth inning, Adrian Beltre bombed a double that came close to being a walkoff. Following a Mike Napoli intentional walk, Nelson Cruz was plunked to load the bases with zero out.  One would imagine that left plenty of chances for the Rangers to walkoff, but the bottom two hitters in the lineup couldn't come through. A David Murphy flyout followed by a 3-2-3 double play by Mitch Moreland left Texas scoreless. A similar opportunity awaited in the 11th with the bases loaded and no out, but this time, Nelson Cruz made sure the Rangers scored, ripping a grand slam.

It was Cruz's second homer of the game and third extra-base hit of the game, the sixth straight ALCS game he has recorded at least one extra-base hit and the eighth straight he's collected a hit. "First two pitches, I was too aggressive," Cruz said after the game. "I hit the ball, foul ball, foul ball. So after that, I told myself, ' just slow down and try to hit a fly ball to the outfield.'"

The grand slam was all that much more impressive given the scary hit-by-pitch he suffered in the bottom of the ninth inning, collapsing to the ground in pain as the throats of each Rangers fan clenched. "He was scared," manager Ron Washington admitted. "It was black and blue ... but after the doctor checked him and told him he was fine, then Nelson got up."

Cruz's walkoff was not only the first in franchise postseaosn history, but the first walk-off grand slam in the postseason. However, Cruz brushed that accomplishment aside.

"It's special, you know. When you get a chance to get a W, that's the most important thing."

Don Kelly was just 4-for-21 against left-handers and was pinch-hitting in a big spot in place of Delmon Young in the ninth inning. Manager Ron Washington of Texas was apparently so intimidated, he yanked Alexi Ogando, who was spinning a beaut in relief, per usual, for lefty Mike Gonzalez. The move backfired, as Kelly ripped a double that should have scored Ramon Santiago from first, but Santiago has no type of wheels. Still, it was a clutch hit but the Tigers couldn't make it pay off after a Miguel Cabrera intentional walk led to a Victor Martinez pop-out to short in shallow left-center.

Turning point: Max Scherzer had settled into a groove and kept the Rangers in check after pitching in and out of trouble to start the game. With his night nearing an end, manager Jim Leyland tried to squeeze one more inning out of the righty. However, Nelson Cruz had other things in mind leading off the seventh, crushing a fastball into left field for his second homer of the postseason, the first coming in Game 1. Cruz also added a double earlier in the game, extending his ALCS hitting streak to eight and ALCS extra-base hit streak to five. He leads all Rangers in postseason homers with eight. The solo blast tied the ballgame at 3-3 and made it anyone's game.

It was over when ...  The Rangers got the 11th inning started with a Michael Young single, and from there it was all over for the Tigers.

Next: Game 3 is in Detroit at 8:05 p.m. ET. Colby Lewis will go for Texas while Detroit counters with Doug Fister.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:59 pm

Inconsistent Holland can't last three innings


By Evan Brunell

The story around Derek Holland has been the same for quite some time now: Worlds of potential, but too much inconsistency holding him back. On Monday, Holland became the first starter in franchise postseason history to walk at least four batters in less than three innings.

It looked as if Holland might have turned a corner with a strong second half, then bouncing back after a poor first against the Rays in Game 2 to turn in a quality outing. But the wheels completely came off in ALCS Game 2, when Holland was knocked out of the game after just 2 2/3 innings, having walked four and giving up three runs on a three-run bomb by Ryan Raburn to give Detroit a 3-2 lead.

Holland threw 76 pitches, just 45 for strikes. Sixty-one of his pitches were fastballs, good enough for an eye-popping 80 percent after relying on the heater just 66.1 percent of the time in the postseason. Much of his pitches were left up in the zone, and while he was able to dance in and out of trouble for two innings, he finally got burned when Raburn took him deep into the left-field stands. Interestingly, Holland threw five breaking pitches to Victor Martinez out of 15, which may indicate a game-plan of sorts, although Martinez hit off-speed pitches just as well as fastballs in season.

After today's peformance, Texas has to think long and hard about turning back to Holland for a potential Game 6, which could mean the difference between glory or a second straight year of disappointment. Depending on how Scott Feldman fares in relief of Holland -- and at the time of this writing, he's notched four straight outs -- Feldman could be the man to throw a potential Game 6.

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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