Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has been playing in pain for some time. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Detroit — A sullen worker wheeled a cart of unopened bubbly through the lower reaches of Comerica Park on Tuesday night, telling the whole story: The American League Division Series isn’t over.
Here’s looking back and looking forward to what should be an epic finish to a marvelous playoff series between the A’s and Tigers.
News: The Tigers offense perked up, finally, in Game 4, though, again, not with help from their biggest bat, Miguel Cabrera.
Views: Tigers fans don’t fully appreciate the amount of pain this guy is in.
I would not be surprised if after the season ends, the Tigers brass meets the media to give us the full picture.
And I suspect it won’t be pretty.
So you have to give Cabrera a boatload of props for continuing to go out there every day as the team continues its quest to bring a world championship to Detroit for the first time since 1984.
The numbers at the plate haven’t been pretty. He’s had four singles in 16 at-bats, and has one RBI. Of course, if Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter had been getting on with any regularity, Cabrera would have more RBIs than that.
But his power has been absolutely eliminated. Balls traveling to the warning track in right center would’ve been many rows deep this year. He’s sluggish on fastballs he typically murders.
On defense, he’s just as limited, though he still is hustling after pop fouls near the stands, even sliding to try to make a play.
He’s in so much pain, Cabrera, who, since July, has been dealing with back, then ab, then oblique, and finally groin injuries. Jim Leyland probably would’ve fainted had he seen Cabrera quickly hoist one of his adorable young kids while meeting with the media mob after Game 4 – for fear he was about to throw something else out. But he’s on the field, trying, grinding, just to help a team that, even if he’s not hitting to his MVP potential, desperately needs his mere presence in the lineup.
When this season is all said and done, you just might learn how remarkable that truly is.
News: The Tigers have had their share of memorable playoff games over the years, from Kirk Gibson’s two-homer Game 5 of the 1984 World Series, to Magglio Ordonez’s walk-off homer in the 2006 ALCS against the A’s, to Willie Horton’s throw home to barely beat Lou Brock in the pivotal Game 5 of the 1968 World Series.
Views: But it’s tough to imagine a playoff game with more twists and turns, plots and subplots, highs and lows than what went down at Comerica Park on Tuesday night. Just think about it.
There was Dan Straily, no-hitting a seemingly lifeless Tigers team through four innings.
Then there was Jhonny Peralta, redeeming himself from a 50-game PED suspension with a mighty three-run home run — the Tigers first ball even close to a homer in two weeks.
There was Victor Martinez, going where he so rarely goes – opposite field while batting right-handed – for a home run, a day after he and Grant Balfour almost came to blows.
And there were the two Tigers fans, John Bendzinski and Mark Beauchamp, reaching over to grab said home run, to the disgust of A’s oft-grumpy right fielder Josh Reddick.
There was Doug Fister getting through six gritty innings, when it looked like he might not even got out of the second. Then there was Max Scherzer, the Tigers ace-turned-reliever, getting himself in trouble and electrifying the crowd by getting out of it.
There were the A’s with the early lead, and the Tigers tying it, and the A’s taking it right back, and the Tigers answering just as quickly – rapid-fire, like some heavyweight fight.
Austin Jackson had a huge hit, when a precious few in the park thought he could. Omar Infante, with a clutch hit for some typically elusive add-on runs. Andy Dirks with a big, yet overlooked walk. Joaquin Benoit with an, uhhh, interesting ninth.
“This game today was probably one of the best games I’ve played in,” Torii Hunter said afterward. “It gave me so much energy, so much excitement.
“We definitely have a heartbeat.”
So what if a few Tigers fans’ hearts skipped a beat in the process.
News: The Tigers are one win away from being in the League Championship Series for a third consecutive year, something no American League team has done since the Yankees from 1998-2001.
Views: At some point, maybe Tigers fans will give a little credit to the men at the top — general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland.
This isn’t 1984, when the Tigers had to win seven games to win a World Series. Now, with three rounds — plus a one-game wild-card playoff in each league — a team must win at least 11 games or as many as 12 to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy.
This is not, at all, easy.
Baseball also is an interesting sport in which only a third of the teams can qualify for the playoffs, and the best team doesn’t always win in the end. More often than not, in fact, it doesn’t. Hello, 2006 Cardinals anyone?
But the Tigers, at least, have been in the game each of the last few years, a remarkable achievement regardless of how awful you think the AL Central is. Where are the Yankees? The Angels? The Phillies? Where were the Red Sox last October? The Dodgers? The Angels again? The Phillies again?
Nothing’s a given, despite the firmly fair expectations the Tigers have played with.
I don’t agree with every move Dombrowski has made. For instance, I thought he left Leyland in a bind by ignoring the closer role this offseason, a situation that, lucky for the team, has righted itself with Joaquin Benoit stepping up.
I also don’t always see eye to eye with Leyland’s in-game maneuvering. I think it was absurd to be flashing the bunt sign to Alex Avila in the seventh inning of Game 4 when Avila isn’t much of a bunter, but is capable of grounding the ball to second, which would’ve accomplished the same goal.
In the end, it all worked out.