It would take more than one hand to count the number of missed opportunities for the Detroit Tigers tonight—almost two hands, as a matter of fact—as in, nine. That’s the number of runners the Tigers left stranded on base. And it gets worse. They were 1-7 at the plate with runners in scoring position. What’s even more amazing is they only lost to the Texas Rangers by one run, 3-2, on a night when ace Justin Verlander was looking like a mere mortal (even on an off night, he’s still better than half the pitchers in baseball). The Rangers now lead the American League Championship Series 1-0.
Tigers skipper Jim Leyland copped to Verlander’s lack of control in his postgame presser. Did losing ALDS hero Delmon Young to injury for this series affect the Tigers tonight? Maybe, but Leyland wouldn’t take that bait. Did the two rain delays have an impact on the game? Probably. But you might argue it helped Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who was running into a bit of a pickle in the fifth inning, giving up a pair of runs and loading the bases before the rains came down, forcing umpire Tim Welke to clear the field for a second time. Leyland remained matter-of-fact, upbeat and anxious to get onto Game 2 preparations.
When play was resumed, Alex Avila continued his postseason disappearing act and weakly struck out to reliever Mike Gonzales to end the inning. Threat over.
Despite only mustering one more hit in the final four innings, there were positives for the Tigers tonight:
* Even when Verlander is having an off night, he only gave up three runs.
* The bullpen held the Rangers to only one hit in the final three innings.
* Rick Porcello looked sharper than Verlander (scary, I know).
While Leyland was certainly disappointed to lose Game 1, he took it in veteran stride, understanding the series is far from over. But even he does not yet know how a second consecutive rain-disrupted series opener will affect his pitching rotation. Porcello was slated to start Game 4. He threw two quick innings tonight. Can he get back on the mound in four days?
The questions for Tiger fans are mounting too:
* Is there a pitch Austin Jackson can resist?
* Will Alex Avila get off the milk carton and back in the game?
* Can the 1-2 punch combo of Miguel Cabrera-Victor Martinez actually land some 1-2 punches???
I don’t have a scary sense of foreboding about Game 1, as I do not believe it is a harbinger of things to come. But if the Tigers head back to Detroit down two games to none, it might get a little foreboding around here.