Cards Down Tigers 5-4; Extend World Series Lead
Craig Monroe had an explanation. Reliever Fernando Rodney had no excuse for his blunder.
Rodney's error in the pivotal seventh inning was the fourth by a Detroit pitcher in the World Series - breaking a record - and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to win 5-4 Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead.
Rodney fielded a sacrifice bunt cleanly in front of the mound, pivoted and threw to first base. The sailing toss was so high it would've only been caught if a 7-footer was covering the bag, not 5-foot-10 second baseman Placido Polanco.
David Eckstein scored on the error to tie it at 3.
``That was an easy out,'' Rodney said. ``It's the same old story, you make mistakes and you pay for them.''
The Tigers can blame the soggy outfield for one, big fielding mistake, but Rodney's miscue was all him.
``It just went badly out of my hand,'' he said.
If the Tigers don't fix their bad defense fast, their storybook season is going to come to a crushing close. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Friday night.
``We've got to win three in a row and that pretty much puts it pretty simple,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ``Are we capable of doing that? Absolutely. Are we in a good position? Absolutely not.
``You just go out and remind the team that if you win the next game in the postseason, you keep playing. If we don't, we don't.''
Rookie Justin Verlander, who will face against former Tiger Jeff Weaver, insisted he's not nervous about the biggest start of his life.
``I'm excited,'' he said.
Rodney's poor throw came off pinch-hitter So Taguchi's bunt, allowing Eckstein to score after he reached on a fly ball that center fielder Curtis Granderson didn't get to because he slipped while trying to make the catch.
``We thought we had a fly ball, one out, and it was a freak situation,'' Leyland said.
Rookie Joel Zumaya struck out Juan Encarnacion with one out in the eighth, but strike three was a wild pitch that allowed Aaron Miles to get to second. Ivan Rodriguez, perennially one of the best defensive catchers in the game, said he should've blocked the low throw.
``It went through my legs,'' he said. ``I just moved myself in front of the baseball, the ball had a funny bounce and went though.''
Miles had reached by beating the relay to first on what could have been a double play. Then Monroe just missed a diving catch in left field off Eckstein's bat and Miles' run proved to be the difference.
``In that situation, you have to throw the guy out on a base hit,'' said Monroe, explaining why he was a bit shallow in the outfield. ``And you had a guy at the plate in Eckstein, without a lot of power, so you play the percentages that he doesn't hit it over your head.
``It wasn't a mistake, it just didn't work out.''
Leyland was concerned about defense when he took over a team just three years removed from an AL-record 119 losses. The Tigers put Leyland's mind at ease in the regular season with sound fielding, but when it has mattered most they have struggled.
In Detroit's previous two losses, it made four errors and its pitchers have been a liability in the field with their record-breaking miscues.
``We've done a few things during the Series to either maybe give them a run or gave them some extra chances, and they're obviously a good enough team to take advantage of those,'' Leyland said. ``Basically right now, they've played good enough to be 3-1 and we've played good enough to be 1-3.''