Tigers' bats show signs of life, but too little too late
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ROIT -- Nearly all of the 42,152 fans at Comerica Park were on their feet late Sunday night, with two outs in the 10th inning and their Tigers facing elimination. There was a pulse in the stadium, a thump to the club that had not always been present throughout this World Series.
At the plate was Miguel Cabrera -- Triple Crown winner, Hank Aaron Award winner, American League MVP favorite and the city's best chance at October magic. The type that ends up on classic replay shows that stream across your television late one night. The type you watch until the end for the umpteenth time, even though you already know what happened.
But that script never surfaced, and Comerica's buzz fell silent when Giants reliever Sergio Romo delivered a 2-2 fastball. Cabrera watched it zoom by for strike three as the Tigers lost, 4-3, stuffing out the last embers of what had become a baseball pipe dream.
They lost Game 4 of the World Series. But at least in this one, the Tigers had their chances.
"They played perfectly," catcher Alex Avila said of the Giants. "We just couldn't keep up."
There was a feeling of helplessness in Detroit following Games 2 and 3, when the Tigers became the first AL team in nearly a century to be shut out in consecutive World Series games. Whatever fight the Tigers had left in them seemed to have vanished after an exhausting playoff push, a spirited AL Division Series victory and a jaunty AL Championship Series romp.
Even the Comerica throng faded a bit when Buster Posey hit a go-ahead two-run homer for the Giants in the sixth inning Sunday, putting the Tigers a dozen outs from elimination. But Detroit proved that it still had some pluck, firing up the crowd with Delmon Young's game-tying homer in the sixth, then grinding it out with the Giants until the 10th.
Fewest runs scored in a four-game sweep
That the Tigers ultimately fell short may have devastated them, but they could at least applaud their own efforts to make it this far.
"We didn't expect feelings like this," Cabrera said. "It's tough. We tried. We really went out there and played hard. But it didn't happen."
When Cabrera initially put the Tigers ahead with his two-run homer in the third inning, ace pitcher Justin Verlander grew serious in the dugout. Verlander said that in that moment, he not only believed his team would win Game 4, but that he would personally pitch the Tigers to victory in Game 5 and the rest of the Series would fall to them.
With thoughts such as those, these Tigers remained optimistic to the end. They hit at historically poor levels throughout the World Series and did not pitch up to their ultimate capabilities, even if they did come close. But they never abandoned faith until Romo's final fastball popped into Posey's glove, as the rest of the Giants spilled onto the field to celebrate.
"That's why this game's so crazy and why it's honestly the best game in the world," catcher Gerald Laird said. "No matter what you get from your pitching, if you don't score runs, you're not going to win games. They scored runs."
The Giants credited their own strong pitching and timely hitting, with Series MVP Pablo Sandoval laying out San Francisco's checklist for success: "Relax out there, do our thing, don't get the pressure on, see the results."
If only it were that easy. The Tigers know it is not.
"A big part of my game is hitting," Cabrera said, speaking of his personal struggles. "I didn't do a very good job of offense in this series. That's why I say I didn't play my best baseball. I'm not able to do my job."
Along with first baseman Prince Fielder, Cabrera absorbed much of the Series blame despite his Game 4 homer. The Tigers relied on those two for offense in the middle of their lineup, but neither one provided much of it.
Yet across the clubhouse, Verlander was reliving his Game 1 performance, sharing in the blame. Laird and Avila were crediting the Giants. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer was bemoaning the shortcomings of his admittedly solid Game 4 effort.
"They outplayed us in every aspect of the game," Scherzer said.
On a table not far from him rested a crinkled photograph from last season. In it, now-injured catcher Victor Martinez is seen hopping up and down on the field, celebrating another step toward World Series glory.
The Tigers did not make it all the way to such glory that year. They did not make it in 2006, Verlander's rookie season, when they had the chance. And they did not make it in 2012, despite the best effort that they could give.
"I've got to go home and wake up and bring my kids to school," Fielder said. "It definitely stinks. You definitely want to win. I definitely wanted to spray my boys with champagne again. Unfortunately, we just got beat."