The Tigers’ Prince Fielder gets ready in the dugout before the start of Game 5 of the American League championship series on Thursday. Fielder is a career .197 postseason hitter.
DETROIT — As Tigers starter Max Scherzer and Boston’s Clay Buchholz attempt to navigate familiar lineups with their their seasons on the line Saturday night, don’t expect either to just copy and paste the script from Game 2.
"Yeah, there will be quite a few [adjustments]," Buchholz said, "though less for them."
It is true, Scherzer hopes Game 6 of the AL championship series goes much like his last start — minus the wild ride from the bullpen. The Cy Young Award favorite took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, struck out 13, and allowed just two hits over seven innings in the Tigers’ 6-5 loss.
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The Cy Young Award favorite knows a repeat against baseball’s best-hitting lineup will not be so simple.
"It changes because they know what I did," Scherzer said. "Obviously they're going to be looking through the film and watching what I did, the sequences, patterns, when I threw off‑speed pitches, when I didn't. I've got to be ahead of the curve. There will be things I do differently."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland cited his hitter’s familiarity with Oakland rookie Sonny Gray among the reasons Detroit won the division series. Five days after Gray pitched eight shutout winnings in Game 2, the Tigers rattled the 23-year-old for three runs over five innings in the deciding fifth game.
"There's something to be said for that," Leyland said. "The first time around, [Gray] chewed us up pretty good. The second time around it was a combination of he wasn't as good and we had seen him."
The difference Saturday is both starters have extended history with the other guys. Scherzer entered the series 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA in eight career starts against the Sox. Buchholz was 2-1 with a 3.58 ERA in eight starts against Detroit, though the Tigers tagged the 29-year-old left-hander for five runs on eight hits in Game 2.
FIELDER MIA: One of baseball’s most prolific recent run-producers is nearing a historic postseason drought.
Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, who drove in an average of 111 runs over the past seven regular seasons, began Thursday without an RBI in the playoffs since Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS — a streak that ranks among the longest in postseason history. Former Giants and Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller holds the record of 24 straight RBI-less playoff games from 1997 through 2004.
Leyland on Thursday said it was unfair the big-money Fielder has become a magnet for criticism. He kept Fielder, a career .197 postseason hitter, third in his restructured lineup.
"I think that people are looking for the faults," Leyland said. "But he's actually gotten some hits in this series, and really hasn't swung the bat all that bad."
As for the other extreme, third baseman Miguel Cabrera drove in his 23rd and 24th postseason run with the Tigers in Game 4 to vault Hank Greenberg as the club’s all-time playoffs RBIs leader. Greenberg’s RBIs came in the 1934, 1935, 1940, and 1945 World Series.
NO GLOVE, NO PROBLEM: Four games into the series, the Tigers’ maligned gloves had yet to cost them.
What were the odds? Not great, actually.
The Tigers are attempting to become the worst defensive team ever to win the World Series, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal this week. Detroit turned only 69.4 percent of balls put in play into outs during the regular season — a defensive efficiency that ranked 27th in the majors and would be the lowest by a champion since at least 1921, the earliest year such data is available.
Thursday, it finally caught up with the Tigers when Cabrera’s misplay of a routine grounder led to an unearned run in the second inning.
One saving grace, of course, is the Tigers’ pitchers distaste for batted balls. Detroit had a big-league record 1,428 strikeouts this season. Only six teams in the majors allowed more runs.
EXTRA INNINGS: The only tweak in Leyland’s overhauled lineup Thursday was Omar Infante and Alex Avila flip-flopping in the order. Infante batted sixth and the lefty-hitting Avila seventh. ... Victor Martinez began Thursday with 15 hits through nine playoff games this year — two shy of Carlos Guillen’s franchise record 17 in 2006. ... Boston starter Jake Peavy’s 10.31 career postseason ERA is the highest for a pitcher in his first playoff starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous mark of futility was 8.15 by Charlie Root, the Cubs pitcher against whom Babe Ruth hit his famous called shot at Wrigley Field in the 1932 Series.