It’s a bit odd that I have been so busy right at the time the World Series is going on. I wasn’t at work at all on Friday, and didn’t really have a shot at sitting down before the computer until about an hour before the World Series started on Saturday. At that point, I figured nobody would have a chance to read what I had to say before the game anyway, so I didn’t do the much anticipated (by me) World Series Preview.
Amazingly enough, the games went on without my thoughts or input. Game 1 started out well enough when Carlos Guillen singled to knock in the game’s first run after Verlander had set the Cardinals down in order in the top of the inning. That was about the end of the good news for the Tigers in this one, though. Rolen yanked a fastball over the wall in left in the second to tie it up. In the third, Chris Duncan and Albert Pujols doubled and homered to make it a three run game and I believe everybody who was watching was probably a little surprised when they didn’t walk Pujols with first base open and two outs. To make the home run hurt worse, Verlander gathered himself and struck out Edmonds to end the inning after Pujols went yard.
There was more trouble in the sixth, but the way the Tigers were hitting, it didn’t really matter. In the second, they saw seven pitches. In the fourth, it was six pitches. In the sixth, it was eight pitches. In the seventh, it was ten pitches. In the eighth, it was eight pitches again. In the innings mentioned, the outs were all pop outs or fly outs except for one ground out, one line out and one single. Don’t think I’m cherry-picking either, because the third and fifth innings weren’t offensive displays either. They were retired in order both innings; they just didn’t do it in so few pitches (13 in the 3rd; 19 in the 5th).
I really didn’t think the Tigers would be hurt too much by the week off, but it seemed like it may have had an effect on their approach at the plate. Maybe they were so keyed up to get this World Series won they forgot the approach that brought them. On the mound, the Tigers looked better than the box score would indicate. Verlander struck out eight, and at times looked dominant. Other times, it seemed he may have lost some focus and just figured they weren’t going to hit him. Well, when they hit him, they hit him hard. Of the six hits he allowed, four were for extra bases. Of the eight batters who reached base against him, seven of them scored. Verlander was good this season at keeping runners from scoring, and this is what happens when that “skill” goes away.
Game 2 was much better news for the Tigers. They dropped two runs on Jeff Weaver in the first when Monroe went deep on the first pitch he saw. They scored their second run when Guillen doubled in Maggs from first. For a while, it looked like we might be in for a repeat of the night before in that the Tigers had good success in the first but then fell off the map offensively. In the fourth, it seemed like this trend may really come back to haunt them when the bottom of the order loaded the bases with no outs and the top of the order struck out (Granderson), popped out (Monroe) and grounded out (Polanco) to harmlessly end the inning. We seemed to be in for more in the fifth when it looked like they may wasted a Guillen triple, but Sean Casey came through with a big single that made it 3-0.
The story of this game wasn’t the offense, though. Kenny Rogers turned in eight beautiful innings to run his scoreless streak in the playoffs to twenty three innings. I don’t know what the guy is doing, but it sure is a lot of fun to watch. For three games now, it seems like the batters are guessing wrong eighty percent of the time and hitting it right at Tiger fielders when they guess right. It’s almost enough to make you want to see a game six just so Rogers can try to throw another gem. Of course, in the ninth inning it looked very much like it may all have been for naught.
In the ninth, the Tigers brought in Todd Jones to close things out and he did – eventually. Spiezio and Pujols hit the ball hard, but right at Ordonez and Inge respectively, and the Tigers had two quick outs. Then Rolen hit an 0-2 pitch to right for a single, and we all probably thought the same thing. “Of course we won’t have a 1-2-3 inning.” Then Encarnacion hit a come-backer to Jones that bounced away and put the tying run, Edmonds at the plate. This was no longer funny or cute. Edmonds doubled, scoring a run and putting the tying run at second. My inner dialogue went something like this:
Breathe. Breathe. He’ll get out of it. I HATE YOU, TODD JONES! FIELD THE DAMN BALL, YOU TUB OF CRAP! Breathe. Breathe.
Then he hit Preston Wilson with a pitch to load the bases, and bring up Yadier Molina, the hero of Game 7 of the NLCS. This dog had already had his day, right? RIGHT? Right. He grounded out to Santiago who flipped the ball to Polanco for the 27th out. Whew.
Today is a travel day so the teams get a breather before the series resumes tomorrow at eight. In that one, it will be Chris Carpenter against Nate Robertson. Carpenter is a Cy Young candidate, but he’s been sketchy in the postseason and the Tigers had good success against him when they faced him earlier in the season. Polanco and Granderson have yet to pick up a hit in this series, so I’d look for them to add a little more to the mix in St. Louis. They can’t really do much less, right? As for Robertson, we’ll just have to hope we get the Nate that pitched just well enough against the A’s rather than the Nate that ran into some bad luck in New York.