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The Tigers, struggling mightily against the Giants, have few answers


Tigers 1B Prince Fielder: 'We don't get to write the script. It is what it is.' (US Presswire)  
Tigers 1B Prince Fielder: 'We don't get to write the script. It is what it is.' (US Presswire)  

DETROIT -- Tigers Triple Crown superstar Miguel Cabrera happily accepted his Hank Aaron trophy and an actual shiny crown made especially by Major League Baseball to honor his extraordinary trifecta of hitting titles before the game, but later, when it came time to explain how the best hitter in baseball and the rest of the Tigers have lost their mojo in the World Series, ol' Miggy was a no-show.

Just like the Tigers in this World Series.

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After a defeat that put Detroit on the precipice of a World Series sweep that could not have been predicted or even believed, Cabrera beat out of the clubhouse before facing the media, the one negative aspect in a dream job, and a dream life. He came up smaller after the game than during it, when his Tigers suffered a second straight 2-0 shutout defeat to the San Francisco Giants. There is no shame in losing a game to a Giants team that is as tough as it is clutch. Or should be none.

Yet Cabrera bailed.

The great player has demonstrated many positive facets to his game and persona this year, the greatest being his instantaneous sacrifice of first base so Prince Fielder could join him on what seemed to many of us this spring like a super team in the making. He is definitely a team man in that regard, and he deserves (and will very likely) win the MVP. But leaving all the locker room dirty work to the stand-up Fielder after Game 3 wasn't part of the bargain.

Fielder, a real pro, didn't seem to mind as he stood through wave after wave of the media trying to explain the unexplainable -- how one of the best teams money could buy can't buy a hit. They became the first Series team to be shut out twice in a row since the 1966 Dodgers and one of the first since the 1919 Black Sox, who we all know now weren't really trying.

"We don't get to write the script," Fielder said. "It is what it is."

The Giants and their brilliant, varied and, in many cases, resurrected pitchers seem to be in control of the storyline now. They make every pitch. They get every bounce.

When they need a double play, they get one. Threats in the first and third innings ended that way. When they'd like a strikeout, they call upon Tim Lincecum, who doesn't look like anything the Tigers have seen in the American League.

The Giants lead three games to none over a team that's barely put up resistance. The first game was 8-1 until a late Jhonny Peralta homer made it look a bit better, at 8-3. The next two were the shutouts, started by Madison Bumgarner, who had been awful this postseason, and then Ryan Vogelsong, who has been brilliant.

It's like it doesn't matter who the Giants throw out there.

But Vogelsong, the reclamation project by way of the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Buffaloes, is now the first postseason pitcher to have four starts of at least five innings with no more than one run allowed in any of them. But this time it all boiled down to one at-bat for Vogelsong in his final full inning of work, the fifth. That's when, with the bases loaded and two outs, he kept jamming Cabrera with fastballs and eventually got him to pop out weakly to shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Cabrera, for all his regular-season brilliance, has not found his extraordinary stroke this October. He is now at .222 for the World Series, which is slightly better the $214-million man Fielder's .100. Cabrera is at a mundane .267 for the full postseason with only one home run in 45 at-bats. Fielder is even worse, with a .188 batting average and one home run in 48 at-bats.

Fielder isn't just a slugger but a .300 hitter with a keen eye. So his continued first-pitch swinging is a bit perplexing. He doesn't believe it means he's overanxious, but he conceded, "I mean, it's the postseason, you're going to be amped up. Someone's lying if they say they're not excited."

The Giants do a lot of things right, and one thing they obviously determined beforehand was that they were going to do their darnedest to avoid making any fat pitches to Cabrera or Fielder, the game's best current 3-4 combination, one that almost ranks close to the Giants' own historic Mays-McCovey quinella.

"Clearly, they're not going to let us beat 'em. They're pitching tough," Fielder said. "[But] there's nine guys out there they shut out, not just me and Miggy."

That's technically true. But it won't necessarily be recalled that way.

The reason the Tigers were beloved this spring by all the pundits and prognosticators (Danny Knobler, Scott Miller and I all had them winning the World Series back in March) is largely their big three, including the great Justin Verlander, the ace who has an 11.25 ERA this World Series after his Game 1 shelling. Verlander, oddly enough, is just about the only pitcher to be hit hard in this World Series.

This Series has been a bit shocking for the Tigers' ineptitude. But the reality is the Tigers put together only one truly great week this year.

Sure, they get some credit for outlasting the White Sox to win the American League Central, but the truth is they have the talent to win that division going away. Their one great week came against the Yankees, who looked very much in the ALCS like they do now -- flailing, futile, and for all intents and purposes, done.

The Tigers didn't trail in that series. And they haven't led in this one, a reality check from hell.

The Tigers' main message after Game 3 is that they can come back ("We've won four in a row before," Alex Avila said) but it's hard to feel that convincingly when you have trouble getting anyone to third base (Avila was the only Tiger who made it there, in that fateful fifth).

The other message is that it's the entire lineup, and not just the big guys.

"It's the whole team," Delmon Young said. "BP we look great. You move the guy back 15 feet and add a slider, and we haven't been able to do anything."

Well, it's not nothing. Not quite, anyway. They are actually at .165 for the World Series.

"It's not what you visualize," Fielder said.

Even the great ones come up short sometimes, but give Fielder credit for facing up to it. Afterward, it was hard to visualize Cabrera, who was out of there faster than this World Series is going.


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