Ace Justin Verlander got pummeled in Game One at AT&T Park and Prince Fielder's biggest impact was when coach Gene Lamont foolishly sent him chugging around third base in the second inning Thursday. But one of the chief reasons the Giants are in control is because Miguel Cabrera is doing almost nothing.
Plenty of players can struggle under the glare of the postseason but the Tigers' third baseman was probably far from your list of choices. Cabrera won the Triple Crown this year – a first in the big leagues since 1967. He's the fourth straight Crown winner to take his team to the World Series.
Cabrera batted .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs this season. He had a .393 on-base percentage, slugged at a .606 clip and rang up a .999 OPS.
But his numbers were off-the-chart crazy when you measure consistency. He batted .335 against right-handers, .314 against left-handers, hit .332 at home and .327 on the road. He hit .331 in May, .311 in June, .344 in July, .357 in August and .308 in September; .324 prior to the All-Star break and .337 after.
In the postseason, however, Cabrera has been mortal. He is 11 for 41 (.268) with just one home run (in the Game Four ALCS clincher against the Yankees) and six RBIs. He's 1 for 5 with two walks in the first two games of this series. He's due. Probably overdue. But at the same time, he's not getting a steady diet of Indians, Twins and Royals pitching either.
“There's enough pressure on guys, and I think what you want to do is you have to try to get it across to your guys to embrace the pressure,” manager Jim Leyland said Friday. “It's my old favorite story. If you studied for the test and there's the test, it's good pressure. If you haven't studied for the test, it's bad pressure. I just want my guys to be able to embrace this moment. And it's still competitive. It's not just, “We're happy because we're here' and I've tried to relay that message to them.”
The Tigers were shut out a major league-low two times in the regular season.
They've already been blanked twice in October, including Thursday's 2-0 defeat in AT&T Park.
Cabrera and mega money man Fielder have combined for just two home runs in the postseason.
That's not going to get it done.
In a season of massive expectations, the Tigers have been counted out before. They were three games behind the White Sox in the American League Central with just 15 games left in the season and snatched the division title away.
“Every game was a playoff game and our focus was don't ever give up,” Cabrera said when the Tigers arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday. “Find a way to get everything going. Play nine innings and see what happens. We have a good team and we have belief. That makes everything easier. We try to focus on what we control.
“Don't believe in expectations. Don't believe how people will say the game will go. You have to belief in your instincts and what you can do.”
Cabrera was named MLB Player of the Year by the Sporting News on Friday.
He's likely to be named winner of the American League's Hank Aaron Award tonight as the game's top slugger. He needs to live up to that billing.
Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies, which handles concessions at Comerica Park, is even unveiling a Triple Crown Burger (a triple cheeseburger) in Cabrera's honor. So far at least, there hasn't been much meat to his performance or the rest of the Detroit lineup, which has just 10 hits and is batting .167.
“Their pitchers haven't made many mistakes and hitters hit mistakes, that's the bottom line,” said Tigers catcher Alex Avila. “When you have opportunities with the guys on base, you've got to be able to take advantage of them. To this point in two games we haven't. There's no magical scheme that you can just flick a switch or change something, and all of a sudden you score nine runs.”
The Tigers should have a little more offense in their lineup tonight with Andy Dirks and Quinton Berry in their outfield and Delmon Young back to his customary slot at designated hitter. But the weather is not going to be conducive to offense as the temperature might be only in the high 30s when the game finishes.
“You know what? It's cold, but I mean, this is the World Series,” Leyland said. “And it's cold for everybody. It's cold for the fans, the beer is cold, everything is cold. It's great. Enjoy it.”