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Published: Saturday, 10/27/2012

Detroit hopes to warm up bats as temperatures drop

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

An or­ange and black party rol­licked with lit­tle in­ter­rup­tion over the first two games of the World Ser­ies, en­sur­ing the Tigers know by heart the cho­rus to the 1960s fight song that blares through AT&T Park af­ter big in­nings.

“Every time the chips are down,”

“It’s bye-bye baby.”

As the Fall Clas­sic shifts to Mo­town for Game 3 to­day at Co­mer­ica Park, the Tigers are fight­ing to heed the mes­sage.

“We’re go­ing to be fine,” catcher Ger­ald Laird said.

For the Tigers, the chips are de­cid­edly down. Their hopes have been punc­tured by the long balls of Game 1 and the small ball of Game 2; by a for­mer Oc­to­ber out­cast (Barry Zito) and a 23-year-old ca­reen­ing to­ward the same fate (Madi­son Bum­gar­ner); by a ser­en­dip­i­tous bounce and a phys­ics-de­fy­ing bunt.

In other words, noth­ing has gone right, and his­tory sug­gests Detroit is done. Four­teen of the last 15 teams to win the first two games of the World Ser­ies have fin­ished the deal, in­clud­ing the 2010 Giants.

Yet like their re­sil­ient home­town, where the Tigers have not lost this post­sea­son, this team has felt the heat be­fore.

The los­ing record through 83 games. The three-game di­vi­sion def­i­cit with 15 to play. The con­sec­u­tive losses to the Ath­let­ics in the Divi­sion Ser­ies.

“We’ve been here,” Laird said. “We just have to get that first ‘W’ and get that mo­men­tum back on our side, and we’ll go from there.”

Ad­ded man­ager Jim Ley­land: “The way I look at it, we're two games back with five to play, but we're play­ing the team we need to catch. I think that’s the best way to ap­proach it.”

To re­verse course, the Tigers turn to right-hander Ani­bal San­chez. Ac­quired in a mid­sea­son trade, San­chez has brushed aside an un­even reg­u­lar sea­son with a su­perb Oc­to­ber. He’s 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in two play­off starts and looks to be fac­ing the right team. San­chez is 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five ca­reer starts against San Fran­cisco.

The Tigers’ icy bats, mean­while, will be back in their el­e­ment af­ter fac­ing a pair of south­paws. For­get that Game 3 starter Ryan Vo­gel­song is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three post­sea­son starts or that ace Matt Cain awaits in Sun­day’s Game 4. They’re just ea­ger to face a right-hander.

The Tigers hit .275 with a .434 slug­ging per­cent­age against right-handed pitch­ing this sea­son ver­sus .253 with a .395 slug­ging per­cent­age against leftys.

“[Quin­tin] Berry has got­ten some big hits for us, [Andy] Dirks has got­ten some big hits for us, Prince [Fielder] is ob­vi­ously more com­fort­able in that sce­nario, Alex [Avila] is a lit­tle more com­fort­able in that sce­nario,” Ley­land said. “That's just the way it's played out.

“I'm sure that's why they pitched two left-hand­ers in the first two games, be­cause they knew we were a lit­tle weaker from that side.”

A few big hits would cer­tainly en­er­gize the Tigers. So might a few breaks, they be­lieve.

"The ball just hasn't rolled our way yet," Berry said. "They got a hit off the third-base bag. They had a bunt that wouldn't go foul. They made great catches in left field. But no ex­cuses. We're back at home, this is our chance."

In a game where mo­men­tum is fleet­ing, the Tigers be­lieve a win to­day could de­tour the ex­pected San Fran­cisco pa­rade. Max Scherzer and Justin Ver­lander will start Games 4 and 5, re­spec­tively.

“We get to face some good right-hand­ers in our ball­park, where we’ve played re­ally well,” Laird said. “We just have to take one win at a time. Get the next one, and then you’ve got Scherzer and Ver­lander com­ing up. I’d like our chances.”

The Tigers will see Vo­gel­song, fol­lowed by fel­low right-hander Matt Cain in Game 4.

"We've gone through spurts this whole sea­son where we've thrown the ball like this as a staff," Vo­gel­song said. "We ob­vi­ously had our down­time there in the mid­dle of Sep­tem­ber and at the end of Au­gust."

"And we're just all kind of hit­ting our stride here at the same time. It's up to me and Matt now to keep it go­ing over here in Detroit."

At Co­mer­ica, it was in the mid-40s and the lights were turned on while the Tigers worked out. The fore­cast for Game 3 was for tem­per­a­tures to drop into the up­per 30s in the later in­nings.

"We have got heat­ers in the dug­out for both teams, ob­vi­ously. Ours is go­ing to be a lit­tle warmer than theirs, I think, to­mor­row night," Ley­land said. "But that's all right. We're not go­ing to tell them that. I'm just kid­ding. You know what? It's cold, but I mean this is the World Ser­ies. It's cold for ev­ery­body. It's cold for the fans, the beer is cold, ev­ery­thing is cold. It's great. En­joy it."

VENEZUELA/CHAVEZ: Ven­e­zu­e­lan Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez joked that so many Ven­e­zu­e­lan play­ers are in the World Ser­ies that next year it should be played in the South Amer­i­can coun­try.

This year a record nine Ven­e­zu­e­lans are on the ros­ters for the San Fran­cisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers. Chavez re­marked dur­ing a tele­vised Cabi­net meet­ing Fri­day night that if the team's start­ing line­ups are taken to­gether, Ven­e­zu­e­lans ac­count for a third of the play­ers.

He re­ferred to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama as he joked: "I think the next World Ser­ies, Obama, you're go­ing to have to play it here in Ven­e­zu­ela, be­cause it's Ven­e­zu­e­lans all over the place."

The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Con­tact David Briggs at: dbriggs@the­blade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twit­ter @DBriggsBlade.



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