3 Detroit Tigers Who Will Be Key to Game 3 World Series Win
After watching the San Francisco Giants do a little bit of everything and a lot well to take a 2-0 series lead, the Detroit Tigers take solace in returning to their home field. Though history suggests a comeback is not in the offing, the club remains confident.
To win the vital Game 3 though, Detroit has to improve in a few vital areas. First and foremost, they aren't hitting. Give the Giants credit, they have played brilliantly at times. But the vital organs of their potentially explosive offense have not been functioning. Hitting just .167 in the series so far, Detroit must start producing at the plate or the Major League Baseball season could be done before the weekend ends.
But in all fairness, the problems have not just been limited to the Tigers' woes at the plate. With an ERA of 5.63 thus far, the pitching hasn't been playoff-caliber either. And for once, the blame can't all be heaped on Jose Valverde. So here are my three key players that have to deliver for the Tigers to get back into this series.
No. 3: Prince Fielder
Seems obvious right? Especially in light of my most recent column about this series. But like Joss Stone quipped in her song "Fell In Love With A Boy," I said it once before but it bears repeating: Prince Fielder has to deliver behind Miguel Cabrera.
If the big left-handed slugger doesn't come through, Cabrera simply won't get the opportunity to be the Most Valuable Player he was in 2012 at the plate. Fielder has to be the literal clean-up man over the next four or five games (if you are Detroit).
Because as I have said, Delmon Young is a very good hitter. A professional hitter. But he's not the $214 million man. The Giants have shown themselves to be too good, too balanced and too adaptive to allow someone of Fielder's presence to no-show without making Detroit pay for it. Tomorrow has to be the start for the Prince.
No. 2: Andy Dirks
The change of scenery also will bring a change in Detroit's order. Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks will be inserted into the lineup for at least the next two games. Ironically, their presence gives the Tigers a lineup that begins to look similar to the Giants'. I think that bodes well for them going forward.
For one, Delmon Young returns to the designated hitter position. Berry is a much better defender and might give the Tigers a spark with his speed. But for me, without question the biggest change is Dirks playing in place of Avisail Garcia.
No knock on the kid, but Garcia just didn't seem ready for this stage. Dirks is just the kind of "dirtbag" manager Jim Leyland needs to create more than some station-to-station offense.
A .322 hitter this year, Dirks also hit .326 with men on base and .321 with runners in scoring position. He is also adept at the sacrifice and has great bat control. Detroit is going to likely need to scrape out a few runs. Guys like Dirks and Berry could be just the tonic to do so.
No. 1: Anibal Sanchez
Who else could it have been? With the season teetering on the brink, 28-year old-Anibal Sanchez can be the only choice for No. 1. Like Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, he has pitched well in the postseason thus far.
Unlike Verlander and Fister, he will make his third start in the comforts of Comerica Park. It will actually be his first start at home this postseason, having lost a 2-0 duel to Oakland's Brett Anderson and then putting the New York Yankees on a leash in a 3-0 Game 2 ALCS masterpiece.
If there is something for the Tiger faithful to cling to, Sanchez has had great success against San Francisco. Regular season or not, his mark of 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five previous starts against the Giants has merit.
The problem is, his last start was by far the worst: Five earned runs on seven hits in 5.3 innings back on May 24 in a 14-7 San Francisco win over Miami. The Tigers are not likely to win a slugfest against Ryan Vogelsong, so Sanchez has to put zeroes on the board for Detroit to win.
Opportunities don't often knock most times in the Fall Classic. So when they do, you have to bust through with a sledgehammer. So far, Detroit has been hitting the door with a reflex hammer. They are 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. San Francisco is 5-for-11. Easy to see who is winning with those numbers.
So now, the scene shifts back to Motown. The Tigers have played four games at home. They have won four games at home. Getting out of the American League was done largely on the arms of their starters. That will have to return over the next couple of games.
But without some timely hitting, the shaky bullpen may be tested again, and it is probably best not to draw relief from that well too often. Anibal Sanchez has the biggest start in his career against a team he has plenty of success against. That is all well and good, except if his teammates aren't scoring, he can't win. And that's a no-win situation for the Tigers.