Detroit — Well, that’s all she wrote.
And, by the way, she wrote it according to script — the Tigers starting pitching would give them a chance, and the Tigers’ relief pitching would take that house money and double down on 12 against a dealer showing five.
Every weakness Detroit had during the regular season — holding a lead, adding on to the lead, manufacturing a run, you name it — was exposed during what was a thrilling, if not sickening American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.
Here’s a brief look back at Saturday’s Game 6, which will stick with Tigers fans — to say nothing of Tigers brass — throughout a long, cold winter.
News: Prince Fielder had a miserable series.
Views: Though you’d never know it by talking to him.
His carefree, who-gives-a-rip demeanor during postgame media scrums has been highly disappointing — particularly from a man who makes $23 million a season acting like he’d rather be home with his kids, while die-hard fans making $12,000 or $36K or $90K or whatever feel, today, like they just got kicked in the junk.
I don’t question Fielder’s desire to win. He wants to. Every professional athlete does.
But most professional athletes have a better way of showing it.
Fielder, though, is a different cat. His defense mechanism is to play things chill. And that’s not all bad, given you don’t want to exude a sense of panic.
That said, when the season is over — there are no more balls to ground to second base — and you’re still pulling out the “if they’re so smart, they’d be playing” card to smack fans across the kisser, well, then that’s a problem.
When Victor Martinez went down with a knee injury last January, the Tigers and Fielder’s reps quickly came together on a deal that was trumpeted as the move that would bring Mike Ilitch the World Series title he so desperately seeks. And all Fielder has done since then in the postseason is bat .196 with two extra-base hits and no RBIs since last year’s ALCS against the Yankees.
This series, he was 4-for-22 with three singles, no RBIs — and a ridiculously foolish baserunning gaffe that was so outrageous, Fox’s cameras even caught manager Jim Leyland throwing up his arms, as if to say, “Seriously?” That, for the record, is Leyland, the ultimate protector of players’ feelings and egos. Even he had seen enough.
It wasn’t the Tigers’ only mistake on the bases, of course. Austin Jackson, an inning later, got picked off first base in an inning-killer.
Jackson, too, had a rough postseason, though it turned around considerably after the pressure was lifted with a demotion from leadoff to eighth in the order.
Even before that, though, he stood up, faced the music — and expressed disbelief and remorse for his performance.
Fielder? Not so much. Time and again during these playoffs, he acted like a man so carefree, you’d think he was working out kinks in spring training.
That’s the next time Tigers fans will see Fielder at the plate, by the way, in camp, in Lakeland, Fla. And don’t be surprised if the reception, unlike the weather, is chilly.
News: Tigers starting pitchers were fantastic this season, and will be the cog that makes them a contender for the rest of the decade.
Views: Really, it’s quite hard to fathom the Tigers rotation pitched so well — it took no-hitters deep into Games 1, 2 and 3, and got additional gems from Doug Fister and Max Scherzer — yet it wasn’t enough to prolong the season.
Scherzer, pitching in a Tigers elimination game for the third time, had his best save-the-season effort yet — mixing his pitches early in Game 6, and throwing that dynamite fastball that, frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t stick with more.
He gave up just four hits Saturday, and I’m pretty sure at least three — if not all four — were on hanging off-speed pitches.
The killer, though, wasn’t Scherzer’s fault. I hate faulting umps. It seems so childish. And, by and large, the Joe West-and-Co. crew was unnoticeable most of this series. But Scherzer and Tigers fans had a legitimate beef in the seventh inning, when, with one on and one out, Scherzer threw a nasty outside slider to Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts.
It should’ve been strike three — except you had a plate ump, in Dan Iassogna, who was hesitant to ring up batters all night long. (There were 20 strikeouts; 18 were swinging.)
So, it was ruled ball four, putting two on — and, thus, ending Scherzer’s night.
If he’d have gotten the call, I can’t imagine a situation Leyland would’ve called for the relief crew — not with Scherzer at, only, 110 pitches. But with two on, one out and a lefty in Jacoby Ellsbury coming up, Leyland went with Drew Smyly. And he got the grounder he wanted, right up the middle. It wouldn’t have been a double play, but shortstop Jose Iglesias booted it, keeping the Tigers from making even one out.
Then up stepped the hapless Shane Victorino — and so, in stepped Tigers reliever Jose Veras, whose curveball has been so wicked this postseason, particularly in his prior encounters with Victorino.
We all know how that story ends. Veras finally hung one, and Victorino finally hit one — flying the monster for a grand slam, a fitting final blow to a Tigers season in which the bullpen never did get completely settled, not even after Joaquin Benoit took over as closer, and not even when the Tigers acquired Veras from the Astros in a deadline deal.
News: In the end, the history books will forever say the Tigers lost this series in six games.
Views: What they won’t do is paint pictures.
It could’ve been different, for example, if the Tigers had won a pivotal Game 2, in which they led 5-1 and seemingly had the 2-0 lead in the bag — only to cough it up, thanks to a faulty bullpen that surrendered the first grand slam of the series (David Ortiz).
Just goes to show, baseball is the most interesting of games. There’s no clock. There’s always just 27 outs. And things can change in a hurry, often on one pitch.
It’s the sport that’s hardest to predict.
The Dodgers were the odds-on favorites to make the World Series, but they — in a series with the Cardinals — lost the first two games, started, by the way, by Zack Greinke and certain Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw then lost again in Game 6, as the Dodgers season came to an end.
Meanwhile, the Tigers, who, according to many had the deepest starting pitching in baseball, lost four games to the Red Sox — and three of those games were started by Scherzer, the likely Cy Young winner, and Justin Verlander.
The Tigers, as they arrived in Lakeland in February, were the sexiest pick to make another World Series. That’s where their season ended in 2012, and they had back Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez, and welcomed Torii Hunter.
But it’s a hard gig, being the last man standing. It doesn’t just happen because you have the biggest payroll, or the biggest stars.
You’ve also got to get a little fortunate along the way — and the Tigers failed miserably there, with their biggest man, Miguel Cabrera, in severe pain since July. Sure, maybe the Tigers should’ve placed him on the DL back in July in Toronto, where, playing on that fickle turf, his lower back injury first surfaced. They certainly would’ve pulled the trigger if they’d known it might lead to a hip problem, then an abdominal issue, and finally the groin problem he so impressively gutted through the entire postseason.
You simply can’t help but wonder what the Tigers’ final outcome might’ve been had they been playing with a full deck — namely, a fully healthy Cabrera.
It just might’ve been a different result, a happier result. The Tigers, and not the Red Sox, might’ve been preparing for their World Series rematch with the Cardinals.
Then again, maybe not.
You just never know with baseball, the funniest — and best — of games.