Tigers waiting for offense to be unleashed
DETROIT -- As Prince Fielder headed for the door of the Tigers' clubhouse on Tuesday night at the Coliseum, Miguel Cabrera gave him these few words of wisdom:"There's always manana," Cabrera said. There's always tomorrow. Cabrera, seated at a table, repeated the refrain several times as Fielder left the premises. The Tigers can certainly rest on that hope. Cabrera and Fielder, Detroit's always menacing Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, are a combined 5-for-24 with no RBIs in the past four days after a 2-0 loss to the A's in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Detroit still leads the best-of-five series, 2-1, and can wrap it up with a win on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET in a game slated to be broadcast on TNT.
Cabrera, who was 1-for-4 on Tuesday night, is sizzling in the series at 4-for-12 in comparison to Fielder, who is struggling at 1-for-12 with a single and an intentional walk.What made it even more frustrating for Fielder on Tuesday night was that the A's robbed him of three hits in his first three at-bats. A's center fielder Coco Crisp went above the fence in right-center field and grabbed Fielder's blast that opened up the second inning. In the fourth, A's shortstop Stephen Drew made fine plays up the middle on consecutive grounders hit by Cabrera and Fielder. And in the seventh, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch on another Fielder try for a base hit. Finally, he grounded into a double play to end the game. "It's frustrating, but these are good teams that we're playing," Fielder said about his evening. "They're going to make those plays. That's why they're here." Asked what he thought about the Crisp play, Fielder said: "I thought I had a hit. It was a good play. That's what he's supposed to do." The Tigers have outscored the A's by only a slim 8-7 margin so far in the series, leading manager Jim Leyland before the game to say that his team was pretty fortunate to be up 2-0 in the series. "It's been a little freaky, to be honest with you," he said. "And when I say that, I think what's got lost in the shuffle, first of all, are the performances by all four starting pitchers so far. They've been absolutely very, very good. There's no question about that. It's pretty unique that you come in here and you're up two games to none when you've only actually scored one run by way of a hit. That's a little freaky, to be honest with you. "And we're going to have to do better than that if we want to close this thing out at some point, whether it's tonight, tomorrow or the next day. If we're going to close it out, we're going to have to hit better, to be honest with you. That's kind of unique, yes. But it's baseball and you never know how it's going to play out." The count went to six incredible quality starts in the series after Anibal Sanchez and Brett Anderson pitched well, matching each other the first six innings on Tuesday night. And Leyland is correct. The Tigers have scored only one of their eight runs on a hit -- Alex Avila's homer off Jarrod Parker to open the fifth inning of their 3-1 win in Detroit on Saturday night. The other seven runs have been scored like this: a double-play grounder and an error by Parker on Saturday, and an infield grounder, a wild pitch, a two-run error by Crisp on a Cabrera popup to center and the walk-off sacrifice fly by Don Kelly in the bottom of the ninth that won Game 2, 5-4 on Sunday. Against the left-handed Anderson on Tuesday, only one of Detroit's 18 outs was hit in the air: the Fielder shot that Crisp hauled down. Eleven outs came via grounders and Anderson struck out six. Overall, the Tigers whiffed 11 times in the game against four Oakland pitchers. "They pitched and played a perfect game," Leyland said afterward. "You have to tip your hat to them. Nothing you could do about it. [Anderson] had a good curveball, had a very good breaking ball. I think Coco gave them a lot of momentum when he took the home run away from Fielder." The Tigers are hitting .234 in the series after finishing the regular season third overall in the AL in batting (.268), sixth in runs scored (726), fifth in RBIs (698) and 10th in home runs (163). Thus far, they have three RBIs in three games. A lot of it is the A's pitching. Their staff has a 1.75 ERA and has allowed 22 hits and five walks in 25 2/3 innings. But part of it is that the Tigers, thus far, haven't been able to get on track. "We're in the playoffs," Fielder said. "Every team is going to have good pitching. Good pitching stops good hitting sometimes, but all we need to do is score more than they do one day and we'll win." For his part, Cabrera declined to talk about it. As reporters waited for him to dress, the first winner of the Triple Crown in 45 years gestured good-naturedly with a wave of the hand: "See you guys manana." As he said, tomorrow is another day. One in which Cabrera, Fielder and the entire Tigers offense could come unleashed.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.