Detroit — Some News and Views as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth World Series championship late Friday night out in Oakland.
News: The Tigers wasted little time perking up an offense that failed to make the trip to Miami for the final series of the regular season.
Views: You just knew this was a distinct possibility.
The Tigers have had success over the years against A’s Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon, who, by the way, hadn’t pitched in a playoff game since he was a much younger man, and an ever-so-slightly lighter man.
He was off his game in the first inning, and the Tigers took advantage — swinging early and often, and ripping a steady stream of fastballs to open a 3-0 first-inning lead and, for a bit, take a raucous O.co Coliseum crowd out of the equation. They actually scored as many runs that inning as Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago and Co. did in the three forgettable games against the Marlins. Colon, himself, allowed only four earned runs all of September.
Colon even showed some potential jitters in that opening frame, when he nearly plunked Torii Hunter, then actually did on the very next pitch.
He hit exactly zero batters in the regular season.
Colon, 40, wisely changed the game plan after that, going to way more breaking balls. And that worked, as he was rock solid the next five innings — as the Tigers, in turn, did what they so often have before, going cold after an early-game outburst. But the damage already was done, as Colon’s counterpart, Tigers ace-2.0 Max Scherzer, was flat-out dealing.
News: Tigers manager Jim Leyland sure looks like a genius for choosing Scherzer to start the playoff opener.
Views: I still argue that it wouldn’t have mattered. The Tigers have three horses in Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez that are rivaled perhaps only by the Dodgers trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Really, the Tigers probably could’ve started them in any order the first three games, and it might not have made a lick of difference.
But Scherzer, still, rewarded his manager’s faith just like he did when he go the nod to start the All-Star Game — with a darting fastball that closed in on 100 mph multiple times in the early innings, and a change-up that was almost unhittable.
The only hit he allowed through five innings was a Yoenis Cespedes triple in the second inning; that come on a rare mistake, a hanging curve. Even then, Scherzer stranded him there, striking out Josh Reddick, then getting Stephen Vogt on a liner to end the threat.
Scherzer’s most impressive stretch was the fourth, when he struck out the side — and what a side it was: the 3-4-5 of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss (who single-handledly demolished the Tigers during an August series) and Cespedes (who later homered on Scherzer’s only other mistake).
The Tigers right-hander had 11 strikeouts through seven wildly impressive innings, utterly frustrating an A’s bunch that picked up right where it left off in last year’s ALDS: griping at the home-plate umpire.
News: Victor Martinez continued his hot hitting. He’s been hotter than pretty much everybody in baseball since July 1.
Views: And you have to feel so happy for him.
In his first year as a Tiger, he was a big part of the team that went to the AL Championship Series against the Rangers.
But last year, with the Tigers in the World Series, he was home, in Florida, still recovering from a freak ACL injury that wiped out his whole season.
That had to have been brutal for Martinez, who then found it best not to be around the team.
In his first postseason at-bat since, he ripped a two-out double up the left-center-field gap and eventually came around to score. In his third at-bat, in the sixth, he lined a single up the middle, went to second on Alex Avila’s single, then was cut down at home on another tough-to-fathom waving from coach Tom Brookens at third.
Keeping Martinez at third would’ve loaded the bases with one out for Andy Dirks, who, granted, is no sure bet these days to deliver. As it was, he popped out to end the inning.
News: Monday’s Game 3, a potential clincher, will be on MLB Network, meaning WOW! cable subscribers, and those who don’t have the premium AT&T U-verse package, won’t get to see the game.
Views: At least the game is at 1 p.m. Monday, when most folks will be at work, anyway — and settling for ESPN GameCast updates, or a radio stream of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price.
Still, it’d be nice if Major League Baseball accommodated those in Detroit and Oakland by simulcasting the game in those markets on a channel everybody gets. This is the postseason, after all.
It won’t happen, of course. I even asked.
MLB Network is correct in saying most in Detroit have the channel — as do nearly 100 million cable customers in the U.S.
I will say this: At least MLB Network knows how to do baseball games. TBS may get it right sometime in 2060 or so.