Tonight's 11-inning 7-3 loss to the Rangers was a devastating blow to the Tigers. They are now down three games to one and will have to attempt to win three straight games with a worn out bullpen and a banged up middle of the order. It's not over til it's over, but it's not looking good.
Rick Porcello pitched about as well as could be expected tonight allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Typical of his starts, he was brilliant for five innings (0 runs, 2 hits, 6 K), but ran out of gas in the sixth when he gave up three runs. Some may have wanted Jim Leyland to pull him earlier, but there's not much he could do. His middle relievers are bad and the back end of the bullpen has been overused in the postseason.
Leyland went all out to win this one using relievers Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde for the third straight night. Not only that, but they pitched two innings apiece. He could have used Phil Coke earlier, but he was probably trying to stretch out his strongest relievers in order to avoid another Ryan Perry situation in extra innings.
Personally, I was surprised to see Valverde pitch a second inning after pitching the previous two nights. The result was a four-run 11th and a loss. Moreover, Benoit and Valverde will probably be unavailable for tomorrow's game.
There were a couple of base running moves that didn't work out. First Miguel Cabrera was sent home from third on a fly to right by Delmon Young in the eighth. He was out by about ten feet on a perfect throw by Nelson Cruz, who has one of the best outfield arms in the game. Some say, Leyland should have brought in a pinch runner. I disagree. There was no way I would have wanted to see them lose their elite hitter in the eight inning.
In didn't matter anyway because Cruz's throw would have nailed anyone they had available.
Should they have sent him? With a slumping Avila on deck, I think they had to take a chance. There was a possibility that Cruz would throw it off line or that Cabrera could knock the ball loose. Obviously, it didn't work out.
In the tenth inning, they had Austin Jackson attempt to steal to put the potential tying run in scoring position. He was thrown out by Mike Napoli. The thinking there is that Napoli has a poor arm and they wanted to give Ryan Raburn a chance to win the game with a single. The problem is that it would have taken the bat out of on deck batter Cabrera's hands as he surely would have been walked. I personally didn't care for the move, but it was justifiable.
In the end, it was the offense that failed the Tigers again as they had only five hits in 11 innings. Victor Martinez and Delmon Young played through oblique injuries which probably would have put them on the disabled list during the regular season. Alex Avila continued to play while limping around on an injured knee. I'm not optimistic that this hurting crew will produce enough offense in the next three games either.
It was a tough loss, but the one big highlight of the night should be mentioned. With the Tigers down 3-2 in the seventh and two men out, Brandon Inge came to the plate against Alexi Ogando, who has been un-hittable in the playoffs and also against the Tigers in the regular season. It looked hopeless.
Inge looked even more hopeless when he watched a fastball down the middle for strike one and took a check swing for strike two. Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver went so far as to say: "Inge won't pull Ogando". On the next pitch, he pulled a 98-MPH fastball for a game tying homer.
Had the Tigers gone on to win the game, the Inge blast would have been a moment we would have remembered for a long time. As it turned out though, all it did was prolong the frustration and further tax a worn out bullpen.
Victor Martinez said after the game that "Nothing is impossible". He's certainly right that teams have come back from 3-1 deficits before, but it's looking bleak for the Tigers.