Friday, October 27, 2006

World Serious: Cards on the brink of a title

SCORE: Cards 5-4

WP: Wainwright

HRs:DET: S. Casey(1)

The Detroit Tigers lost the World Series in the 7th inning of Game 4 last night when they blew a 3-0 lead and went down 4-3. They temporarily got it back again, though, when they rallied to tie it at 4 in the top of the 8th.

But it appears they have lost it for good after they allowed a soul-crushing run off the bat of 'Spark Plug' David Eckstein, his 4th hit of the night, that drove in the game winner and sent Detroit to the verge of elimination in the Series. Down 3-games-to-1 and playing like a team my son's LL squad may face in their tourney later tonight the Tigers have the look of a tired, dazed, clueless and beaten team.

There was so much that went on in this game it was like 4 games in one. It started out looking like a sure Detroit victory, thanks to 1B Sean 'The Mayor' Casey & a re-energized Pudge-less Rodriguez. Casey's(3-4, 1R, 1RBI) homer off of shaky Cards starter Jeff Suppan (6IP, 8H, 3ER, 2BB, 4Ks) in the 2nd inning provided the listless Tiger offense with a much-needed early shot in the arm and a 1-0 lead. He and Pudge-less, who played like a man possessed all night, helped push 2 more runs across in the third; after Grandy led off with a double, his 1st hit of the series, and Guillen walked, Casey hit a 2 out single that scored Grandy, and Pudge followed with a double that plated Guillen for a 3-0 Tiger lead.
But that lead was short-lived. Detroit starter Jermey Bonderman (5.1IP, 6H, 2ER, 4BBs, 4Ks) gave one right back in the bottom of the frame when he allowed a 2-out double to Spark Plug (4-5, 1R, 2RBI-what a perfect nickname for that little scrapper) that scored Aaron Miles, who had walked. Bonderman, who hadn't pitched since the Game 4 clincher of the ALCS Oct. 14th, pitched well enough to get a win but was touched up for another run in the 4th on doubles by Scott Rolen (2-4) and NLCS hero Yadier Molina; suddenly the game was tight, 3-2 after 4.

That's when things got real interesting. The starters held serve for the next 2 innings before giving way to the pens. Now, Detroit was supposed to have the superior bully, so said me & 10,000 other observers, but most of them are young & inexperienced in pressure situations like the World Series. In the 7th Fernando Rodney took over for Detroit and that's when things got crazy. Sparky led off with another double (his 3rd), but not your ordinary double. Grandy slipped on the slick turf heading back for the sharply hit ball, and by the time he whirled around and tracked it down Eckstein was on first base. For many longtime baseball fans the play was eerily reminiscent of the play in Game 7 of the 1968 Series played between these two teams, when Cardinal centerfielder Curt Flood slipped while tracking a ball hit by Detroit's Jim Northrup; Northrup had a triple, the winning run scored and the Cards lost the series because of that play. Thirty eight years later, with many players from those 2 squads sprinkled throughout the stadium, Grandy's play appeared to have cost Detroit the Series as well. Because as So Taguchi came up to bunt him over, a funny thing (and for Detroit I mean awful) happened on the way to the sacrifice- Rodney lobbed the ball over to first and it sailed into right field as Sparky came scurrying all the way around to tie the game at 3. It was the 4th error by a Detroit pitcher in the series, which have resulted in 6 unearned runs. Yikes. But it wasn't over there. After intentionally walking Phat Albert, Rodney then struck out Edmonds & Rolen. Out of the jam, right? Wrong. Preston Wilson singled to left and Taguchi scored, and although Inge cut off the ball and nailed Pujols off of first, if the ball had gone through I believe that Taguchi would have been so dead at the plate- the way Pudge-less was playing (must've gone on another cycle) he would have thrown Taguchi off the plate to keep him from scoring. 4-3 Cards, and the Series seemed to be slipping away from the Tigers right in front of our eyes.

But the never-say-die Tigers came back to tie it again in the 8th. Rodriguez hustled his way to a leadoff double and after Polanco (0-3, 0-13 in the Series) grounded out, Inge doubled him in off of Cards closer Adam Wainrwright for a huge rallying score. Alas for the Tigers and their fans that euphoria was not to last long.

Joel Zumaya came in in the 8th for Detroit and looked as shaky he did in his previous outing. He
immediately walked Molina, then got a FC groundout and a strikeout. But the new Tiger curse (called horrible pitching & hitting & bad defense) came back to strike again when Zumaya's wild pitch got Aaron Miles (who was safe on the FC) to second base, and then that little sucker Sparky hit another rope to the outfield that a Tiger had trouble with. This time it was left fielder Craig Monroe, who raced over & back to left center, leaped, and had the ball glance off the end of his glove. Run scored, game over, Series most likely over as well
Pick one- the slip by Grandy, the error by Rodney, the ball off of Monroe's glove- any of the above could be considered game-changing, monumental plays- and they all came by one team in a 2-inning span. Crazy.

Duh, I think that would be the little engine that could, David 'Sparky' Eckstein. His 4 hits were all big, but those two momentum-swinging doubles in the 7th & 8th are the stuff playoff legends are made of. Fitting the game ended the game on a groundout to 'short.'

Again, pick one- Rodney, Zumaya, Grandy, Polaco-fer, Bondereman are all good candidates. But I would have to go with Rodney. If you can't throw the ball from the mound to first base, well no wonder you get no respect.

"I went to plant my feet and they just went out from under me. It was just a freak thing. If I stand up, I catch it easily." Granderson on his misstep

For Detroit it's win or go home. The will most likely send Verlander to the mound to oppose Weaver. But with heavy rain in the forecast for Friday night, the Tigers could be staring at another off night to sit back and ponder the dire situation they are in.

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