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Published: Tuesday, 10/30/2012

Series of misses

Tigers’ lineup picks bad time to go cold

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT — In one of his first organizational meetings after being hired as manager of the San Francisco Giants during the winter of 2006, Bruce Bochy learned big changes were coming.

The Giants would transition from the big boppers of the Barry Bonds era to a team built behind pitching and defense.

“When pitching is your strength, you want a good defense,” Bochy said Sunday night after the Giants had clinched their second World Series title in three years. “That shows up every day. Hitting sometimes, well, it comes and goes.”

If Bochy needed proof of that, he needed only to look across the field and into the opposing dugout.

“We didn’t hit enough,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland after his Tigers were swept out of the 2012 World Series with a 4-3, 10-inning loss in Game 4.

Well, there’s an understatement for you.

The Tigers batted .159 as a team. They scored six runs in four games, three runs in both the first and last games with a couple shutouts for the cream filling.

Want a little sampling?

Prince Fielder, 1 for 14, .071, 0 RBIs.

Jhonny Peralta, 1 for 15, .067.

Andy Dirks, 1 for 9, .111.

Quintin Berry, 0 for 8, .000.

Austin Jackson, 3 for 13, .231.

Miguel Cabrera, 3 for 13, .231.

Well, enough of that.

It ended on a bitterly cold, wind-whipped, rainy night at Comerica Park with Cabrera, expecting another in a series of breaking balls, frozen on a Sergio Romo fastball over the heart of the plate, right in his wheelhouse. It seemed fitting.

Cabrera had a two-run homer in the third inning on a can of corn to right that got up in the jet stream and managed to reach the seats. It lifted his series totals to one home run and three RBIs. That from the Triple Crown winner who hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs during the regular season.

“They pitched great,” Cabrera said of the Giants. “Nothing happened. We try hard, [but] we never find our game.”

We noted Fielder’s zero RBIs above. He drove in 108 during the regular season while hitting .313.

“They just were better,” he said, quickly turning away from reporters into the cocoon of his locker. “It is what it is.”

Yes, it is, or was.

The Tigers’ offense was inconsistent all season. It’s why they finished with the seventh-best record in the American League and took until the final days of the season to nail down the fairly weak AL Central Division.

So when Cabrera and Fielder, two threats throughout, joined that hitless parade in the World Series, the Tigers didn’t stand a chance.

“There was no doubt about it,” Leyland said. “They swept us. So there [were] certainly no bad breaks, no flukes. I tip my hat to them. They did better than we did. We got beat. They beat us. They earned it. We didn’t hit enough.

“[On Sunday, the Tigers] played their hearts out. They battled their tails off. I thought we had some real good at-bats. But we had five hits. We just didn’t do enough. They were better than we were, you can’t say anything different.

“I mean, if it goes seven games and you lose the seventh game on a freak play or something, you might say, well, we were as good as they were. But in this series we were not as good as they were.”

Ignoring Game 1, which is impossible because it was the springboard to a Giants sweep, the Tigers came close to matching up on the mound. It sounds a bit odd to say that the worst performance in the whole series came from Justin Verlander, the best of them all, who lasted but four innings and was roughed up by two of Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs in the opener.

In the ALCS, the Tigers’ pitching was judged spectacular against a New York Yankees batting order that couldn’t spit a drop and was distracted by lineup controversies and finger-pointing. There was none of that in the World Series, just a Tigers’ lineup that went stone cold. And it would be unfair to not judge the Giants’ pitching, a mix of southpaws and righties with wicked sliders, as spectacular.

Both bullpens were stout, and the Tigers got a lift throughout the postseason from lefty Phil Coke, who nonetheless took the final loss of the season.

“I did the best I could,” he said late Sunday night. “We did the best we could. We just came up short. We just went cold at the wrong time.

“But I don’t think there’s a reason why you can’t expect us to be back here [and] on the other end. Don’t think we won’t be back.”

Maybe; maybe not. Getting to the World Series is no easy task.

But, if so, it might be advantageous for the Tigers to bring their bats with them.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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