Tumbling Tigers ready to tweak
DETROIT — Toting his tiny aluminum bat, 5-year-old Gage Brookens wandered toward the cage and watched Austin Jackson, Omar Infante and a few other Tigers take batting practice on a chilly Friday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Maybe that's what these slumping Detroit hitters need in this World Series — metal bats, rather than their weak wood.
“Oh, I don't know if they'd allow that,” kidded Gage's grandpop, Tigers first base coach Tom Brookens. “But the hitters definitely wouldn't mind.”
Something better change for Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Tigers real soon, or their year is going to end. They totaled three runs and 10 hits in San Francisco while falling into a 2-0 deficit against the Giants.
Game 3 is Saturday night, with Anibal Sanchez starting for Detroit against Ryan Vogelsong.
The Tigers are hoping that a switch in scenery — the ivy hanging on the center-field backdrop at Comerica has turned to autumn colors since the AL Championship Series — and a flip in pitchers might help.
Silenced by left-handed starters Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner at AT&T Park, the Tigers are eager to see a right-hander. Any right-hander, in fact: Detroit batted .275 against righties, .253 vs. lefties this season.
“Sometimes you can't explain it,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. “In our case, we've had trouble all year with left-handed pitching, which is strange because we have a lot of good hitters on the team.”
The Tigers will see Vogelsong, followed by fellow righty Matt Cain in Game 4.
“We've gone through spurts this whole season where we've thrown the ball like this as a staff,” Vogelsong said. “We obviously had our downtime there in the middle of September and at the end of August.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland plans to insert speedy rookie Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks in his outfield. A few big hits would certainly energize the Tigers.
So might a few breaks, they believe.
“The ball just hasn't rolled our way yet,” Berry said. “They got a hit off the third-base bag. They had a bunt that wouldn't go foul. They made great catches in left field. But no excuses. We're back at home, this is our chance.”
No mistaking that the Series has shifted from California to Michigan. In San Francisco, it was downright balmy in the 60s and made for a pair of picture-perfect settings to play ball.
At Comerica, it was in the mid-40s, and the lights were turned on while the Tigers worked out. The forecast was for Game 3 was for temperatures to drop into the upper 30s in the later innings.
“We have got heaters in the dugout for both teams, obviously. Ours is going to be a little warmer than theirs, I think, tomorrow night,” Leyland said. “But that's all right. We're not going to tell them that. I'm just kidding.
“You know what? It's cold, but I mean this is the World Series. It's cold for everybody. It's cold for the fans, the beer is cold, everything is cold. It's great. Enjoy it.”
The Tigers have lost five straight World Series games dating to 2006 against St. Louis, but they've also won five postseason home games in a row. Detroit began that string last year in the ALCS, took two against Oakland this year in the division series and then finished off an ALCS sweep of the Yankees.
Overall, the Tigers have taken eight straight at home.
“I think a lot of teams, your really good teams, they dominate at home. That's what they do — the Cardinals, the Reds, they were really tough at home,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We ended up having a pretty good home record despite having some struggles there in September or late August. But it's a team that feeds on probably their home crowd, and they're more comfortable at home, and that's usually the case in baseball.”