Thu Oct 13 01:37am EDT
With their offense struggling to score runs and key hitters like Victor Martinez(notes), Alex Avila(notes) and Delmon Young(notes) battling injuries, the Detroit Tigers had to take a few chances against the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the ALCS.
Did those risks pay off? In almost every instance, they did not. Here are five gambles the Tigers took that ended up backfiring on them in the 7-3 loss that put them one defeat from elimination.
[Related: Nelson Cruz bruises Tigers again]
Conventional baseball wisdom dictates trying to hold Andrus at first base to prevent him from stealing second base and being in position to score on a base hit. But there were already two outs in the inning. And Young had already gone 0 for 2 in the game, making him 1 for 14 in the series.
But the call from the dugout was to keep Andrus close, rather than concentrate solely on Young. Rick Porcello(notes) made four pickoff throws to first, two of them after getting ahead with a 1-2 count. The fifth pickoff attempt skipped wide of Miguel Cabrera(notes), allowing Andrus to take second base. One pitch later, Young drove him in with a single.
2. Cabrera attempts to tag up and score: With one out in the eighth and no runners on, Rangers manager Ron Washington called for Cabrera to be intentionally walked. That looked like a move bound to backfire for the Rangers. Victor Martinez followed up with a single, putting runners on first and third.
Then Delmon Young hit a fly ball to right field. Deep enough for the lumbering Cabrera to score? Maybe not, but enough for the Tigers to give it a try. However, Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz(notes) made an excellent throw home and beat Cabrera by several steps for an inning-ending double play. (Maybe he would've thrown out Ramon Santiago(notes) in Game 2.)
"I thought it was a great decision to send him," said Leyland. "If the throw is off-line, he makes it. if it's not, he's out."
3. Austin Jackson(notes) goes for the steal: Having gone 0 for 4 in the game, Jackson gets a break when Darren Oliver's(notes) inside pitch hits his jersey. Trying to avoid the double play and/or put a runner in scoring position, Jackson attempts to steal second base. Note that there was one out in the inning and Cabrera was in the on-deck circle.
[Video: Highlights and lookahead to Game 5]
Whether it was because of a poor jump or the Rangers anticipated the steal attempt, Jackson was thrown out easily at second. Ryan Raburn(notes) followed up with a strikeout, leaving Cabrera waiting on-deck.
Whose decision was it to go for the steal? According to Leyland, it was Jackson's. "I agreed with it, 100 percent."
4. Intentionally walking Adrian Beltre(notes): The Tigers likely intended to set up a potential double play when they decided to put Beltre on in the 11th. Josh Hamilton(notes) led off the inning with a single double, followed by a Michael Young strikeout. The gimpy Beltre likely wasn't going to beat out any throw if Mike Napoli(notes) hit a groundball.
But how much of a threat was Beltre with his bat, all banged up after fouling two pitches off his left leg in Game 3? He was already 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in the game. Perhaps it wouldn't have mattered, given that the next two Texas batters got hits. But pitching with two outs and one runner on is different than one out with two on.
5. Sending Jose Valverde(notes) out for another inning: When the Tigers brought him in to pitch the 10th, Valverde was working for the third straight day. However, he made quick work of the Rangers, setting down the side on just eight pitches.
[Slideshow: Check out photos from Game 4 of the ALCS]
The quick inning may have been why Leyland felt he could bring Valverde back out for the 11th. Either that, or he felt like he really didn't have any better choices in the bullpen. But Valverde looked pretty gassed after facing three batters and couldn't keep his fastball down. Napoli smacked one of those high fastballs into center for a RBI single.
Valverde managed to get his fastball down against Cruz, but threw it inside, which is exactly how he likes it. Just as he did in Game 2, Cruz turned on the pitch and launched it out for a back-breaking home run. Valverde will definitely be getting a rest on Thursday.
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