WORLD SERIES: Tigers offense tipping its cap again — and struggling mightily
There was simply no way that the Detroit Tigers were supposed to struggle scoring runs like this, not with the lumber they had in the middle of the order.
So, throughout the season, it was fingernails on the chalkboard every time fans heard the phrase, ‘Tip the cap,’ to honor a stellar performance by an opposing pitcher. It was like a punch to the gut whenever an opposing pitcher looked like Cy Young against the Tigers, regardless of their credentials prior to pulling the teeth out of the supposedly vaunted Tigers offense.
“Certainly, you want to tip your hat, but you can’t keep crediting opposing pitchers every night,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said midseason. “We’re doing that a little too often.”
Yet, facing a superb San Francisco Giants in the World Series, back in that same old mode, having scored just three runs in three series games, all of those coming in Game 1 in AT&T Park. (Game 4 was incomplete at press time for this edition).
Tip the cap again.
“The reality is, we’re not clicking. Our timing was a little bit off, but I think you have to tip your cap — the Giants have done a good job pitching to us,” GM Dave Dombrowski said Sunday afternoon in an interview on MLB.com.
“We have run through phases this year, although we’ve only been shut out a couple of times, where we have trouble scoring runs. That’s probably why we only won 88 games, rather than winning more games. Because we go through these phases where you kind of shake your head, and you’re not sure why.”
The Tigers were only shut out twice in the regular season.
When they were blanked, 13-0, by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 17, it snapped a 158-game streak of scoring at least one run, one that had dated back almost exactly one calendar year to midway through the 2011 season. The only other time the Tigers were blanked in the regular season was on Aug. 29 by the Royals, a 1-0 loss in the middle game of a three-game sweep in Kansas City.
Through 12 playoff games, though, the Tigers have been shutout three times — 25 percent of the time, by anyone’s math — losing 2-0 to Oakland in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, and by the same 2-0 score to the Giants in both Games 2 and 3 of the World Series.
“The games that we’ve won here in the postseason have basically been attributed to our good pitching, rather than to our hitting,” Dombrowski admitted.
That’s not all that rare.
“(Runs are) normally hard to come by in the postseason, because you’re going to face a good pitcher pretty much every night. Both teams have. Game 1 (an 8-3 Giants win) was a little bit of a crazy game, really. It wasn’t like we figured it would be,” Leyland said. “But the last two have pretty much been what you think about postseason play. Runs are hard to come by.”
Maybe what you figure postseason play will be like. But certainly not how you figure the Tigers would go, right? Not with Triple Crown winner and Hank Aaron Award winner Miguel Cabrera hitting third, and Prince Fielder batting cleanup.
Well, not really.
“Well, we’ve been pretty hot and cold all year, a little bit more cold than hot, and even in the playoffs we weren’t really scoring that many runs other than the final game against the Yankees, when we finally put eight on the board. But we’ve been fighting all year long, in and out with our offense,” Leyland said Saturday night, after his team became the first AL team to be shut out in back-to-back World Series games since the 1919 White Sox, they of the “Black Sox scandal” infamy.
“No, I don’t think it’s frustration. It is what it is.”
It doesn’t help that the big two, Cabrera and Fielder, are struggling, too.
Fielder came into Saturday’s Game 4 of the World Series hitting just .188 in the postseason — with one home run and three RBI — and just .100 (1-for-10) in the first three games of the Fall Classic.
Cabrera hit .278 through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but just .222 (2-for-9) in the World Series, prior to Game 4.
“I think in reality, that bottom part of the order, that five-through-nine has been very up and down for us, really throughout the year. And then when you look at it right now, Miguel and Prince are also scuffling — at times, those are the guys that pick you up, put you on their back, and carry you,” Dombrowski told MLB.com. “So when you put that combination together, you have almost everybody scuffling. Hopefully collectively, they’ll come out of it, too.”
So which is it? The Tigers hitters struggling, or the Giants pitchers pitching well?
“I think it’s both. You gotta give them credit. They’re hitting their spots,” Fielder said. “When teams throw back-to-back shutouts, they’re doing something.”
Eight teams have accomplished that in the World Series, but only one — the 1966 Orioles, who blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers in three straight games — has done it in the last 90 years.