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Published: Sunday, 10/28/2012

WORLD SERIES NOTEBOOK

Cabrera, Posey honored before game

Duo wins Hank Aaron Award for their respective league

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Frank Robinson, left, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig, right, presents Miguel Cabrera with his Triple Crown award before Game 3. Cabrera also won the Al Hank Aaron Award this season. Frank Robinson, left, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig, right, presents Miguel Cabrera with his Triple Crown award before Game 3. Cabrera also won the Al Hank Aaron Award this season.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

DETROIT — For the first time, both win­ners of the Hank Aaron Awards that go to the best hit­ters in their re­spec­tive leagues are fac­ing off in the World Ser­ies.

Less than 90 min­utes be­fore the start of Satur­day’s Game 3, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Buster Po­sey of the San Fran­cisco Giants were in­tro­duced as the award win­ners by Aaron and com­mis­sioner Bud Selig.

The awards were se­lected by a fan vote and by a panel of Hall-of-Fame mem­bers.

Cabrera also ac­cepted a Tri­ple Crown tro­phy that was pre­sented by Selig and one-time Tri­ple Crown win­ner Frank Robin­son.

“I look back on my ca­reer and [the Tri­ple Crown] is one thing I didn’t do,” Aaron, the game’s one-time ca­reer home run cham­pion, told Cabrera. “You did it with grace. And I know they weren’t in­field hits.”

Cabrera led the Amer­i­can League with a .330 bat­ting av­er­age, 44 home runs, and 139 RBIs to be­come the first player to win a Tri­ple Crown since Carl Yas­trzemski in 1967. Robin­son ac­com­plished the feat a year ear­lier.

“It was a truly re­mark­able of­fen­sive sea­son that ended the lon­gest gap be­tween Tri­ple Crown win­ners in base­ball his­tory,” Selig said.

Cabrera said he was “thank­ful for this mo­ment. It’s a tre­men­dous honor.”

Po­sey led both leagues in hit­ting (.336) and was the first catcher to win the NL bat­ting ti­tle since 1942. He did it one sea­son af­ter a se­ri­ous May, 2011 in­jury that saw him break a bone in his left leg and tear three an­kle lig­a­ments.

Po­sey had a big smile on his face as Selig and Aaron took turns sa­lut­ing him.

“Wow. I’m hum­bled that Hank Aaron even knows who I am,” Po­sey said.

HOME COOKING: The Tigers were glad to be home, of course, af­ter drop­ping into an 0-2 hole while open­ing the World Ser­ies in San Fran­cisco.

More im­por­tant, per­haps, than be­ing back at Co­mer­ica Park, though, was the re­vival of the des­ig­nated hit­ter with the se­ries mov­ing to the Amer­i­can League park.

Just as im­por­tant, per­haps, was turn­ing around the San Fran­cisco pitch­ing ro­ta­tion to a pair of right-hand­ers, Ryan Vo­gel­song for Game 3 and Matt Cain for to­day’s Game 4.

It may sur­prise some to know that de­spite some of the Tigers’ big­gest hit­ters – Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jack­son, Jhonny Per­alta and Del­mon Young to name a quar­tet – swing­ing from the right side of the plate, Detroit as a team has fared bet­ter this sea­son against right-handed pitch­ers than left.

The Tigers have a .771 OPS — a statis­ti­cal com­bi­na­tion of on-base per­cent­age and slug­ging per­cent­age — against right-handed pitch­ers and a .724 OPS against left­ies.

Tigers’ hit­ters were fed a heavy dose of south­paws dur­ing the open­ing two games in San Fran­cisco and did not fare well. The Giants’ start­ers were left­ies Barry Zito and Madi­son Bum­gar­ner.

“I thought they made a good move,” Tigers man­ager Jim Ley­land said of the Giants. “They read, ob­vi­ously, and they know our right-handed hit­ting lineup is not as good. But, you know, for us to win a World Ser­ies we’re go­ing to have to beat a left-hander. I think we’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing that. A lot of peo­ple have short mem­o­ries; we just beat CC Sabathia not too long ago in Game 4 of the ALCS. So we can beat a left-hander.”

Fac­ing right­ies in a DH park, how­ever, means Del­mon Young is re­moved from the de­fense, where he rarely plays and where he did not dis­tin­guish him­self in left field in San Fran­cisco. It put Andy Dirks back in the start­ing lineup.

Con­sid­er­ing he hit .336 vs. right-handed pitch­ing this sea­son, that and im­proved de­fense may be the big­gest edges the Tigers re­al­ized from re­turn­ing home.

TIGER TARGETS: Detroit’s 1-2 run-pro­duc­ing duo of Cabrera and Prince Fielder en­tered Satur­day night’s Game 3 with a com­bined .225 post­sea­son bat­ting av­er­age and were a com­bined 2-for-11 with one RBI in the World Ser­ies.

Ley­land felt their at-bats were “fine,” and sug­gested “they’re go­ing to be pitched a lit­tle bit tougher than some of the other guys.”

Cain, the sched­uled Game 4 starter for the Giants, agreed, to an ex­tent.

“Those two, sure,” Cain said, “but the big­gest thing is tak­ing care of guys in front of them. If you can get the first two guys out in front of them, keep them off the bases, it just makes it a lit­tle bit eas­ier, stress-wise. When you’ve got a cou­ple guys on with Cabrera or Fielder or [Del­mon] Young up, things aren’t go­ing so well.

“So you’ve got to fo­cus on the guys in front of them, as well. It’s not just the guys in the mid­dle.”

MAD MAX: Be­fore Satur­day’s game, Tigers’ Game 4 starter Max Scherzer didn’t know if his team would be down 0-3 or 1-2 when he takes the mound to­day and he said it didn’t mat­ter.

“I have a pref­er­ence,” he said, laugh­ing. “But does it make a dif­fer­ence? Ab­so­lutely not. I’ve got to give the team a chance to win, so re­gard­less of what the se­ries is at, it’s a must-win game. We’re try­ing to win the World Ser­ies. If we’re go­ing to do that I need to pitch well.

“Given that, I’ll come up with a plan of at­tack on how I want to go at their of­fense and try to ex­e­cute the best I can.

“I ab­so­lutely rel­ish it. I mean, this is the start of a life­time to be able to pitch in the World Ser­ies. You know, ev­ery game in the World Ser­ies is a must-win game, so what bet­ter op­por­tu­nity than the one I have.”

TSN HONORS: The Sport­ing News named Detroit third base­man Cabrera its player of the year for 2012. In ad­di­tion to Cabrera, the Sport­ing News’ post­sea­son AL all-star team in­cluded right-handed start­ing pitcher Justin Ver­lander and first base­man Prince Fielder.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Giants cer­tainly weren’t in­tim­i­dated upon re­port­ing to Co­mer­ica Park. They went 46-35 on the road dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son and ev­ery­one re­mem­bers their three-game sweep in Cin­cin­nati dur­ing the NLDS.

San Fran­cisco av­er­aged 3.8 runs per game at home and 5.06 runs on the road, the sec­ond high­est fig­ure in the ma­jors. After the all-star break, the Na­tional League champs played 12 se­ries on the road, win­ning 10 of them and split­ting an­other while go­ing 30-13.

“Some things are hard to ex­plain,” said Giants man­ager Bruce Bochy. “But I will say it re­ally picked up in the sec­ond half how we did on the road, and we had to. We had to get our act to­gether … these guys have been very good at be­ing road war­riors. For a team to have a good year, you need to play pretty good ball on the road, and these guys have done it.”

LONG BALLS: The Giants are just the sev­enth team since 1900 to reach the post­sea­son de­spite hit­ting the few­est reg­u­lar-sea­son home runs of all ma­jor league teams. They fin­ished with 103 round-trip­pers.

The last team to ac­com­plish the feat was the 1987 St. Louis Car­di­nals, who hit just 94 hom­ers.

QUOTE-UNQUOTE: Tigers man­ager Jim Ley­land on how he gets along with younger play­ers so well:

“My dad was one of 16 [chil­dren], my wife is one of 11, I’m one of seven. You learn how to deal with peo­ple. I don’t think that’s re­ally a prob­lem for me. I am just grumpy once in a while be­cause [I] have to be grumpy or some­times you guys don’t get the mes­sage. So ev­ery­body thinks I’m a grumpy old man. I’m old but I’m not grumpy.”



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