Last night the Detroit Tigers lost 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox. And quite honestly, it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Throw five or six more behind it and then I’ll be slightly irritated. What does provide cause for concern is what happened in the bottom of the 8th inning and what happened before the game ever started.
Let’s start with the latter. Miguel Cabrera was penciled into the starting lineup and did in fact play, putting up a very rare 0 for 4 performance. I will reserve final judgment on this decision until I see him split a gap and ‘run’ the bases. My beef is: if he can’t go full speed, then what’s the point?
The Tigers have the AL Central all but won. Yes, they are playing for the best record in the American League. Yes, Miguel Cabrera is still in a legitimate hunt for a 2nd consecutive Triple Crown. To the 2nd point, I couldn’t care less. To the first, without question, the Tigers should work toward that goal.
My hope when Cabrera was shut down late last week is that he would get at least a week off to allow his body to heal and return to where it needs to be. Instead, he missed just three games before being declared ready to roll, or trot, or power walk, whatever it is he was doing before he tweaked his injury.
Cabrera is the type of player who can practically lift his entire team onto his shoulders and carry them through the playoffs toward a title. He is that special. With that in mind, he must be healthy if at all possible. This cannot be toyed with.
More on this in a minute. But what about that bottom of the 8th inning last night?
When Scherzer walked off the mound after a stressful 7th inning he gave Jim Leyland the “I’m all right” nod of ‘please keep me in, I WANT that 20th win’. Never mind that he had already thrown 105 or so pitches through seven innings. Never mind that his team was down 2-1. Never mind that he came out blazing fastballs at 96 MPH in the 1st inning, lending one to believe that he might tire earlier than usual. Never mind that this is just one game out of 162.
So out went Max for the 8th inning with his team trailing 2-1. Predictably, after a walk and a single, Max’s night was finished. Phil Coke and Luke Putkonen put out the fire and kept the score status quo. And what was gained by throwing Scherzer out there for the 8th? Quite simply, nothing.
The only possible upside would have been him finishing the 8th and the Tigers tying the score or taking the lead in the 9th (against the hottest closer in the American League mind you!) so that Max’s record would either remain unblemished or so that he could reach that magical 20th win.
What then was risked by handing him the ball for the 8th? Am I the only one who remembers Max wearing down in late September last year, with fear of a shoulder ailment that was so concerning that Leyland staggered his starts deeper in the rotation during the playoffs and didn’t let him pitch very late into games? Is this team honestly ready to risk that yet again just so that Max can get to 20-1? So it seemed last night.
The big picture needs to remain front and center over these final 23 games. The Tigers trail the BoSox by two wins in the standings for the AL’s best record.
The takeaway from last night, at least for me, was that the Tigers do in fact care deeply about their personal accomplishments, even if it means risking the greater good. This is not the stuff of champions.
Will Cabrera hit at least four more homers than Chris Davis down the stretch to snag a ridiculously impressive 2nd straight Triple Crown? That’s highly unlikely, but possible.
Max already has the Cy Young on virtual lock down. He’ll even be in the MVP conversation if he wins out. But is this the stuff that they’re really chasing here?
I remember 1984, barely. I was 7-years old. By the time the 2013 World Series wraps up I’ll be tickling 37. Thirty years is a long time in between championships. I have good friends who consider themselves big Tigers fans who weren’t even alive in 1984.
In my heart of hearts, I truly feel that the Tigers are the team to beat this year. It just feels…right.
Big picture, people! Big picture.
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