The Lions’ complete dismantling of the Bears certainly helped, but to completely get over Nelson Cruz‘ 11th-inning, walk-off grand slam (the first in MLB postseason history) which put the Tigers down 2-0 in the ALCS is going to take some time. The majestic shot off of “reliever” (in the loosest sense of the term) Ryan Perry was so monstrous that I had plenty of time to judge it’s apocalyptic trajectory and switch over to the start of the Lions game before the ball landed safely into the sickeningly jubilant throng in Arlington’s left field bleachers.
To even get to that point was an adventure. First, the game was originally scheduled for Sunday night, but was inexplicably cancelled four hours before game time due to rain. The only thing is IT NEVER RAINED. So the game was moved to late afternoon on Monday when most people are actually working. Added to Games 4 and 5* (*if necessary) that are already scheduled for the late afternoon in Detroit and you have a situation where most of the fanbases of the Rangers and Tigers won’t be able to watch the majority of the ALCS. And Commissioner Bud “Admiral Akbar” Selig can’t figure out why his TV ratings continue to plummet?
When the game finally began, the Rangers immediately jumped out to a 2-0 as I stewed in my office listening to ESPN’s shaky internet feed. Meanwhile, the Tigers squandered chance after chance, stranding five runners on base in the first two innings. Finally, the Tigers capitalized on Derek Holland’s wildness and took the lead with a Ryan Raburn three-rum bomb. Max Scherzer then settled in and cruised through the 6th, at one point mowing down 12 straight Rangers.
Going into the bottom of the 7th, as I walked home from the train listening on my iPhone, I agreed with manager Jim Leyland’s decision to stick with Scherzer as he had thrown only 87 pitches. Facing the bottom of the order, I thought it was a good move to try not to tax a bullpen that is sure to be tested with no off days scheduled until Friday. Unfortunately, the bottom of the Rangers’ order includes the aforementioned Nelson Cruz who promptly deposited a ball over the wall in left to tie the game at three—a harbinger of the awful things to come…
I got home in time to watch Tigers relievers quiet the crowd and Texas’ bats until the Human Heart Attack, Jose Valverde entered in the 9th. The Big Potato immediately gave up a double to Adrian Beltre which then forced him to intentionally walk Mike Napoli. Valverde swiftly drilled Cruz in the wrist and chest, dropping the slugger to the ground and loading the bases with no outs. I guess you might as well hurt the guy if you’re going to put him on base anyway, he just should’ve hit him harder.
Valverde has been infamously bad in non-save situations all year (5.79 ERA) so I thought I was reading the righting on the walls until he got David Murphy to fly out for the first out of the inning setting up the possibility of a game-saving double play. With a grounder to first I was off my couch to witness Miguel Cabrera fire the ball home for one and receive it back from Alex Avila for two to complete the improbable 3-2-3 double play to cheat death.
Unfortunately, the great escape only prolonged the inevitable as the deeper Texas bullpen outlasted Detroit’s, eventually forcing Leyland’s hand to go with the 24-year-old Perry who really shouldn’t even be on a major league roster at this point with a 5.35 ERA in 37 innings this year. Cruz’ eventual soul-crushing blast wasn’t too difficult to see coming.
Yes, the Lions’ utter humiliation of the Bears certainly did help ease the pain of a critical Tigers’ defeat. But it doesn’t change that the Tigers essentially need to take all three upcoming games in Detroit, starting tonight, to have any chance of going to their 11th World Series in franchise history.