Tigers manager Jim Leyland walks around the infield at Comerica Park on Friday. The Tigers host San Francisco today.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.