October 18, 2013 at 1:26 am

Tony Paul

Baserunning blunder sets losing tone for Tigers

Jim Leyland on ALCS Game 5
Jim Leyland on ALCS Game 5: Tigers manager discusses problems in the loss to Boston

Detroit — It was super cold at Comerica Park on Thursday night, and now all the heat is on the Tigers, who, for the second time this postseason, will have to win back-to-back elimination games to keep their season alive.

They did it against the A’s, and they happen to have the two pitchers set up to start — Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — who played a big role in putting Oakland down.

So they’ve got a shot, though it won’t be easy.

Not that anything about this series against the Red Sox has been, following a fourth one-run game through five.

News: Another baserunning blunder set the tone early in Game 5.

Views: The Tigers ran the bases so well, and so aggressively, in the Game 4 victory — which, frankly, was so unlike them. Game 5 was more like it.

Miguel Cabrera ran through a stop sign, but Tigers third-base coach Tom Brookens originally was shown waving him home. And the end result was disaster in the opening inning, with Cabrera being gunned down at the plate by Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes with unbelievable ease.

It ended a scoreless first inning, rather than loading the bases for Omar Infante.

Tigers fans simply have seen this too much.

They moaned until they couldn’t moan anymore about former third-base coach Gene Lamont, who last was seen on the field waving home Prince Fielder in a buzz-kill moment in Game 2 of last autumn’s World Series.

But Brookens, whom fans were thrilled to learn was moving into the gig over the winter, has made his share of “wish I had that back” moments, as Jim Leyland terms them.

And Thursday, there was another one.

The Tigers were off to a promising start against Red Sox ace Jon Lester, when Cabrera walked and Prince Fielder followed with a single up the middle.

Then, after a Victor Martinez fly-out, sweet-swinging Jhonny Peralta stepped up and laced a single through the hole between third base and shortstop.

What happened next will long remain open to interpretation.

Some believe Cabrera immediately looked to Brookens and saw the windmill, which means green light, and took off — as much as a guy with a bad groin can take off. But when Cabrera approached third base, he made eye contact with Brookens holding his hands up. Cabrera, who ran through a bevy of Lamont stop signs, paid no mind.

And, to be fair, given his condition, stopping on a dime might not have been an option.

Gomes easily scooped up Peralta’s hit and fired a strike to catcher David Ross, who was waiting at home for Cabrera for the final out of the inning.

Cabrera explained:

“In that situation with two outs, you want to be aggressive,” he said. “We wanna score, you know, he tried to stop me.

“It was a mistake I make.”

But manager Jim Leyland said, “With Miggy, you’ve got to hold him up right away.”

It was a boost for the Red Sox, to be sure — particularly when Mike Napoli led off the second inning with a monstrous home run to center field.

That started a three-run inning, which, in part, was aided by a Cabrera gaffe at third. It was his second error this postseason.

News: Brayan Pena returned, playing in his first game of this postseason.

Views: And you’d be forgiven if you forgot he actually was on the team.

Pena, the Tigers enthusiastic backup catcher, played 71 games this season in Detroit, but hadn’t played since Sept. 29 — during the final series of the regular season in Miami.

That was until Alex Avila was used as a human bowling pin in Game 5, and needed to come out with a knee injury.

And like Pena so often did this year, he contributed when his number was called.

His first at-bat, pinch hitting in the fourth inning, he was up in a big spot, with two on and one out. And he hit into an inning-ending double play.

But Pena made up for it next time up when, again with two on and one out, he laced an RBI single to left-center field to pull the Tigers within two runs. Red Sox manager John Farrell made the curious decision to bring in the right-hander, Junichi Tazawa, to relieve Lester. That switched Pena from the right side to left, his better side.

Pena didn’t try to do too much, and put a good swing on the ball for his first hit since Sept. 22 — and his first RBI since Aug.29.

The Tigers have some big offseason decisions to make, like whether to re-sign Joaquin Benoit and Infante — or, more accurately, whether they can afford to. A no-brainer, though, is bringing back Pena to back up Avila.

If it were up to him, of course, the deal would be done.

“I love it here,” Pena said. “I understand that every time I see the big boys go out there, I’m watching history. It’s something I can tell my kids.

“I feel like I’m blessed. I do whatever it takes to come back here.”

As Avila dealt with a concussion and other nagging injuries, Pena had a fine year at the plate, batting .297 with four homers and 22 RBIs.

His defense isn’t much to speak of, though he did almost make a great hustle play to cover third base — Cabrera had to field a bunt — that nearly resulted in a ninth-inning out; his arm is very weak. But he’s a fine guy to catch every fifth day, to catch a guy like Doug Fister, who holds runners as good as anyone — and, again, that bat has pop.

Plus, as much as everyone raves about Torii Hunter and Martinez, Pena’s clubhouse presence is welcomed more than you know, too.

All together, that’s a heckuva bargain, at less than a million bucks.

News: The kid, Jose Iglesias, was at it again Thursday.

Views: And now, he’s just showing off.

Iglesias, the Tigers splendid shortstop, had a whale of a Game 4, and flashed some more brilliance in Game 5 — all versus the team with which he played the first half of this season.

It all started with that red glove of his, per usual.

In the third inning, he made as fine a running play as you’ll see. With David Ortiz batting, and thus the infield shift putting Iglesias to the first-base side of second base, a pop-up appeared headed for no-man’s land in short left-center field.

When it went up, it looked like a hit. When it started to come down, it looked like a hit. And then, Iglesias — with those blazing wheels — came out of nowhere, stuck out his glove at the last possible second, and made the over-the-shoulder catch.

He was running so fast, he couldn’t fully put on the breaks until he was in left field.

The effort earned a big smile from Ortiz, Iglesias’ good buddy.

When did Jose knew he could get it?

“When I catch it,” he said with a smile. “The wind was blowing that way. I was able to make a play for the team.”

More than one, in fact. Iglesias also turned a sweet double play to get the super-swift Jacoby Ellsbury — his hands are so fast, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a magic kit as a kid — and made another dandy running catch on a Stephen Drew fly ball that took him all the way to Peralta’s perch in left field.

Iglesias, 23, is gonna be so much fun to watch for the next several years, particularly if he hits as projected. His legs will help. He nearly beat out a fantastic bunt in the fifth inning, but Lester made a fine recovery. Later, Iglesias did have a big single on a low fastball by Tazawa, then booked it first to third on a Hunter single to right (no other Tiger would’ve got past second base), and scored on Cabrera’s double play.

Iglesias also will be credited with making the final out of the game — but only after a lengthy and gritty battle against phenomenal Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.

tpaul@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/tonypaul1984

Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is unhappy after being tagged out at home in the first inning. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News
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