Cardinals Shut Out Detroit, Take World Series Lead
The Detroit Tigers reached the World Series with sensational pitching, sound defense and timely hitting from their entire lineup.
Detroit has failed in each of those phases against the St. Louis Cardinals in its two Series losses.
It could be rust, stemming from the six days off the Tigers had between sweeping Oakland and playing St. Louis.
Perhaps the Cardinals are just better.
Or, maybe baseball's law of averages are catching up to Jim Leyland, whose trips to the mound usually led to double plays if he kept the pitcher in or to stunted rallies if he signaled to the bullpen.
Leyland might make lineup changes, but he's not ready to panic and disputes the notion that a Game 3 - after a series is tied - often proves to be the turning point.
``Everybody has their different philosophies on that,'' Leyland said Tuesday night after St. Louis beat Detroit 5-0. ``I've seen where somebody said if you win Game 1, they'll win most of the time. I read an article where Joe Torre said he thought the most important game was Game 2.
``Basically what this means is that the Cardinals went up 2-1. If we don't swing the bats better, they'll go up 3-1.''
More specifically, the Tigers need a trio of key players to end a staggering slump at the plate.
Placido Polanco, Ivan Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson are a combined 0-for-34 against St. Louis.
``It's three games. We've gone through 162 games,'' Granderson said. ``I'm sure there's been plenty of times in there where any one of us has not hit in three games. At the same time, there's been times where the three of is have hit great in three games.
``So in a matter of a day, we can turn it around. We still have games to play.''
Those games could be limited to two if the Tigers don't get it together quick.
Their first chance comes Wednesday night in Game 4, and the last one might be Thursday night in Game 5. If the Tigers can win at least one of those games, the Series will shift back to Motown.
In Detroit's two losses, the Tigers have given up 12 runs, made four errors and scratched together just two runs on seven hits. In the Game 2 win, Kenny Rogers threw eight shutout innings, Detroit had one error and matched its run total from the other two games on 10 hits.
Polanco was almost unstoppable against Oakland, hitting .529 and winning the AL championship series MVP award. That seems like a distant memory as does the seven-game winning streak the Tigers had heading into their first World Series since winning it in 1984.
Then, Detroit had a long break.
``I don't think it helped,'' Polanco said.
Polanco, Rodriguez and Granderson hit a combined .326 with four homers and 15 RBIs in the division series against New York and ALCS against the Athletics, helping the Tigers average 5.4 runs in each matchup.
In the World Series, all three have put up big goose eggs: Polanco is 0-for-10, Rodriguez is 0-for-11 and Granderson is 0-for-13.
``We've been in slumps before,'' Polanco said. ``It's just that it caught us at a bad time.''
Polanco and Granderson began struggling against the Cardinals, while Rodriguez's woes at the plate started two full week ago.
Since getting two hits in Game 1 at Oakland, the All-Star catcher is 0-for-23. His last at-bat Tuesday night was all too familiar: He flailed at Chris Carpenter's pitch in the eighth inning, and slowly walked back to the dugout after his ninth strikeout of the playoffs.
``I think probably I'm trying to push myself instead of going out there and having fun like I normally do,'' Rodriguez said.
After grounding out to shortstop David Eckstein in his first two at-bats, Polanco finally made good contact in the seventh, but had nothing to show for it. First baseman Albert Pujols, a good friend from the Dominican Republic and former teammate, made a lunging catch in the hole to deny Polanco his first hit of the Series.
``It is frustrating, but at the same time, you have to turn the page,'' Polanco said. ``You can't let that get in your head.''