By: Jamie Samuelsen
We won’t be able to properly put Sunday’s Game 2 debacle into context until we find out what happens in the rest of the ALCS.
Let me put it this way, if the Pistons had won Games 6 and 7 back in 1987, I sincerely doubt that ‘Bird Stole the Ball!” would have gone down as one of the most painful losses in Detroit sports history. It’s all about the context. If the Tigers stabilize things today and take this series, the David Ortiz footnote will simply be an amusing footnote in a dramatic postseason. Kind of like those long goals that Chris Osgood allowed in 1998 on the way to a Red Wings Stanley Cup.
That said, Tigers fans have been in a world of hurt since Torii Hunter went flying over the right field fence at Fenway Park. That game belonged to the Tigers. And with Justin Verlander going in Game 3, it was very easy to forecast a 3-0 series lead. Nobody comes back from 3-0 down in the American League Championship Series (except of course these same Boston Red Sox back in 2004). So I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the glass is half full and everything is okay. Fans have a right to feel outraged, angry and devastated.
But there are a few things to remember as we head into Game 3 this afternoon.
1) The Tigers came out of Boston with a split. Before the series, 100 percent of Tigers fans would agree that a 1-1 record after two games at Fenway would represent a near dream come true given the Tigers history in that park. It’s a best three-out-of-five series with three of the games at Comerica Park. Advantage – Tigers.
2) Verlander pitches against John Lackey today which represents the biggest pitching mismatch of this series. The way JV has looked lately compared with the way right-handed hitters destroy Lackey (.463 slugging percentage) gives a clear edge to the Tigers going up 2-1.
3) Verlander has two starts left in this series. Max Scherzer has another start. So too does Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers starting pitching has been the story of this series so far and even though we shouldn’t expect six innings of no-hit baseball every time out, it’s still very, very good.
4) As one listener pointed out to me on Twitter, the Ortiz blast might very well be the equivalent of the Kobe Bryant three-pointer in the 2004 NBA Finals. Remember that series? Pistons took Game One and had Game Two well in hand until Kobe hit a miraculous three to put the game into overtime where the Lakers won 99-91. People thought L.A. had all the momentum heading back to Detroit. And they didn’t win another game. The Pistons knew that they were the better team. The Tigers should have that same confidence heading into three games at Comerica Park.
5) Has anyone else noticed that Miguel Cabrera is starting to look healthier? Not only has he blasted two home runs (and pulled them no less) in the last three games. But he also seems to be moving better defensively. I was stunned that he tracked down Jacoby Ellsbury’s foul out in the sixth inning the other night. Cabrera of two weeks ago doesn’t make that play.
These facts and opinions don’t erase Sunday night. And they certainly don’t add an extra arm or two to the Tigers bullpen. But that game on Sunday night is just one game. It doesn’t have to have any carry over – and with Verlander pitching at the top of his game – it shouldn’t.