Baserunning mistake cuts rally short; slugger goes 9-for-40 in October
BOSTON -- Prince Fielder wanted to keep his team out of the double play. Then he saw Dustin Pedroia tag Victor Martinez between first and second. Then he got stuck. And then, as he tried to dive back into third base and avoid the glove of Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Tigers' stout slugger provided a GIF-worthy moment that will live on in blooper reels forever: Fielder belly-flopping back to third and landing about a foot shy of his targeted base.
It was a rally-killing moment, the 4-2 double play costing the Tigers an opportunity to add on in the sixth inning of a game that ended their season.
It was, in many ways, a snapshot of Fielder's sluggish playoffs.
"I was trying to keep us out of the double play, and once I saw Pedroia tag him, I kind of got stuck there -- and it ended up being a double play anyway," Fielder said after a 5-2 loss in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on Saturday night, which sent Boston to the World Series.
Asked if he should've held up, Fielder said: "Yeah, probably. But it's over, bro."
Down a run in the top of the sixth, Torii Hunter led off with a walk and Miguel Cabrera singled to get Boston starter Clay Buchholz out of the game. Lefty reliever Franklin Morales then walked Fielder and gave up a two-run single off the Green Monster to Martinez, who batted .405 in these playoffs.
But Brandon Workman got Jhonny Peralta to hit a grounder to the right side, Pedroia made the critical heads-up play, after the tag throwing home to Saltalamacchia, who ran Fielder back to third, Shane Victorino hit a grand slam off Jose Veras in the seventh and the Tigers never got back in it, their offense putting only five runners in scoring position in Game 6 and averaging three runs per game in the ALCS.
"I just thought we were going to get a regular double play," Workman said. "My back was turned and I didn't see what Fielder was doing. The next thing I know, it looked like Pedey was about to throw the ball through my chest to the plate. I just hit the dirt, trying to stay out of the way."
The resulting play was just the latest -- and most glaring -- in a month full of lowlights for Fielder, whose importance was magnified with Cabrera playing hurt. The Tigers' high-priced first baseman finished the playoffs with a .225 batting average (9-for-40), adding one extra-base hit and zero RBIs. And in what ended up being the Tigers' final game at Comerica Park on Thursday night, Fielder was booed after each of his final three plate appearances.
Afterward, though, the 29-year-old slugger preached perspective.
Asked if this loss is going to linger more than others, Fielder said: "I got kids, man."
"You have to be a man about it," he added. "I have kids. If I'm sitting around pouting about it, how am I going to tell them to keep their chins or keep their heads up when something doesn't go their way? It's over.
"It isn't really tough, man, for me [to move on]. It's over. I have kids I have to take care of, so, for me it's over, bro."
Told fans may be upset to hear him shake off a disappointing loss so quickly, Fielder said: "They don't play."
And now, neither will the Tigers. Not until 2014. They were coming off a World Series appearance and were six victories away from their first title since 1984, and their first under owner Mike Ilitch.
Fielder, fresh off finishing the second of a nine-year, $214 million contract, looms as a big part of that. He's now gone 18 consecutive postseason games without driving in a run, dating back to Game 1 of last year's ALCS. That's six away from the record held by Bill Mueller, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch in what ended up being Fielder's final game of 2013.
"You play hard, you give it all you got, and then there's life," Fielder said, his two sons, ages 7 and 9, lingering behind him. "I have two boys I have to take care of. I'm not going to sit around and be pouty all day. I can't try to help them become men if I'm over here pouting."