Playoff games preview: October 12
Shortly after 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, the Tigers, already trailing the American League Championship Series 2-games-to-0, fell behind the Rangers in the first inning at Comerica Park. Just twenty-four hours later, Detroit could be tied at two-games each in the ALCS. Tuesday night's 5-2 win gives the Tigers a chance in Wednesday's afternoon affair to knot the series and turn it into a best-of-three with ace Justin Verlander slated to pitch Game 5 on Thursday.
In the nightcap to today's postseason doubleheader, over in the National League, the Brewers and Cardinals play a pivotal Game 3. Since the advent of best-of-seven LCS in 1985, 29 series have been tied 1-1. Of those 29, the Game 3 winner went on to win the series 21 times (11-for-15 in the NL, 10-for-14 in the AL), a 72 percent conversion rate.
• The Tigers avoided sure disaster with a win in Game 3, but may have suffered a decisive loss anyway as Victor Martinez strained an intercostal muscle on his right side on a home-run swing in the fourth inning putting his status in doubt for the remainder of the series. As the designated hitter, Martinez did stay in the game and made two more plate appearances, but he swung just once in those two trips, flying out to center in his final at-bat. Martinez said after the game that "the only way I don't play tomorrow is if I wake up and I'm dead," but no one asked the intercostal its opinion on the matter. After losing Magglio Ordoñez to a broken ankle in Game 1, the Tigers thought Delmon Young could play through his oblique strain, but Young went 0-for-4 in Game 2 and was unable to answer the bell for Game 3.
• Martinez is hitting just .185 in this postseason (5-for-27), but with two home runs, five walks and a hit-by-pitch, he has kept his OPS at a respectable .741. He's also the second-best hitter in the Tiger lineup and Miguel Cabrera's protection. The Tigers could move Jhonny Peralta up behind Cabrera if Martinez is unable to hit, but though Peralta had a fine season, hitting .299/.345/.478 with 21 home runs, the free-swinging shortstop isn't going to keep the Rangers' pitchers honest against Cabrera the way Martinez has. The best example of that is when, with runners on the corners, two-outs, and a clearly injured Martinez on deck in the fifth inning, the Rangers still pitched to Cabrera, who responded with an RBI double. After the game, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wasn't going to put another run in scoring position by walking Cabrera, but one still suspects that Colby Lewis wouldn't have gone right after Cabrera the way he did if the on-deck hitter hadn't homered off him in his last at-bat.
• The Tigers are now without Ordoñez, seemingly without Young, and possibly without Martinez. Mix in Brennan Boesch, who suffered a season-ending thumb injury at end of August, and the Tigers could be forced to play the remainder of this series and possibly their season without 44 percent of their regular season lineup. What's more, one reason that they activated Young is that they're just plain out of outfielders; every man who played the outfield for them this season is either injured, already on the playoff roster or part of another organization.
Ryan Raburn is a fine replacement in one outfield corner, but as long as Young is out, the Tigers will have to use lefties Don Kelly and Andy Dirks to fill in the other corner despite the fact that the Rangers will start a left-handed pitcher in each of the next three games, if this series even goes that far. The Tigers do have a potential Martinez replacement in Carlos Guillen, but he's unlikely to be available unless the Tigers reach the World Series due to a calf injury which he has been rehabilitating in Florida. Besides, the Tigers would have to take Young or Martinez off the active roster to add someone like Guillen, officially losing them for the series, something they don't yet seem prepared to do.
Instead, they'll have to use some combination of the lefties Kelly and Dirks and platoon third baseman Wilson Betemit, who hit .236/.281/.326 against lefties during the regular season, to replace Young and Martinez, if neither is able to play.
• Having said all of that, the Rangers' left-handed Game 4 starter, Matt Harrison, actually had a slight reverse lefty/righty split this season, which likely stemmed from the fact that his changeup is his primary off-speed pitch. Indeed, the two RBI hits Harrison allowed in his otherwise dominant start against the Rays in Game 4 of the Division Series, in which his fastball was sitting around 94 miles per hour, were both to left-handed hitters, one of whom, Matt Joyce, has struggled to prove he's more than a platoon player.
• Including that ALDS start, Harrison is 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA over his last six starts. He was less impressive in two regular-season starts against the Tigers, however, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 10 innings, taking the loss both times.
• Don Kelly and Andy Dirks have combined for just one hitless plate appearance (Kelly's) against Harrison. Betemit is 1-for-7 with three strikeouts against the big Texas lefty. Raburn, however, is 8-for-12 with two doubles and two homers in 13 career plate appearances against Harrison.
• Rick Porcello threw two perfect inning of relief in Game 1 of this series, needing just 22 pitches to do so. However, he has struggled in Comerica Park this season, going 5-5 with a 5.64 ERA in his home park and taking the loss there in Game 4 of the Division Series against the Yankees after allowing four runs in six innings. The 22-year-old righty groundballer's lone start against the Rangers this season was a solid one (6 IP, 1 R), but, like his Game 1 relief appearance, came on the road.
• It's a miniscule sample, but Rangers platoon leftfielder David Murphy is 4-for-6 with a home run in his career against Porcello.
• The Rangers have an injury concern of their own as Adrian Beltre fouled several balls off his legs and feet in Game 3, striking just below his left knee so hard that he had X-rays taken after the game, which were negative. Still, if Beltre's mobility remains compromised, as it clearly was late in Game 3, the Rangers may opt to put Michael Young at third and Beltre at designated hitter, though Young's play at third isn't all that much of an improvement over a hobbled Beltre.
• Yovani Gallardo has been the only Brewers starter to pitch well this postseason, posting a 1.29 ERA in two starts compared to his rotation-mates' 11.50 ERA in five starts. That would seem to make this a must-win game for the Brewers, who need to win one of the next three games in St. Louis to get this series back to Milwaukee. However, given how well Carpenter has pitched on regular rest over the last five weeks, the Brewers may not be able to count on tonight's game being the one.
• In his last five starts on exactly four days' rest, which is what he'll have coming into this game, Carpenter has allowed one run in 42 innings with three shutouts. The first of those shutouts came again the Brewers in St. Louis back on September 7 and the last was his NLDS Game 5 masterpiece against Roy Halladay and the Phillies.
• Carpenter faced the Brewers four times during the regular season, giving up 10 runs in 11 innings in his two starts in Milwaukee, but just two runs in 17 innings in his two starts against the Brewers in St. Louis. As an NL Central veteran, he has a long history against many of the Brewers' hitters, but of the men he has faced more than 20 times, only Prince Fielder has hit him well (.308/.438/.538 in 32 plate appearances). Rickie Weeks is 6-for-10 with three home runs against Carpenter in his career.
• Making matters worse for Milwaukee is the fact that the Brewers' offense is greatly diminished on the road. During the regular season, the Brewers averaged just 4.1 runs per game on the road, and they averaged 3.5 runs per game in their two road games in the Division Series against the Diamondbacks. Those games were their only two losses in that series. In nine regular season games against the Cardinals in St. Louis, the Brewers averaged 2.6 runs per game. They did manage to win four of those nine games, but they needed a solid pitching performance each time out to do it.
• Gallardo allowed just one run on a solo homer in each of his two Division Series starts against the Diamondbacks while striking out 14 men against three walks in 14 innings in that series. In fact, he has allowed just one run in each of his last four starts, with that run coming on a solo homer three times, and in his last five starts, all Brewers wins, he has posted a 1.57 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings against just six walks.
• Gallardo faced the Cardinals four times during the regular season, and like Carpenter against the Brewers, two of those starts were quality and two were disasters. However, they didn't follow the neat home-and-away pattern of Carpenter's starts. Gallardo held the Cardinals scoreless for eight innings in St. Louis in May, but in three starts between August 11 and September 6 gave up 16 runs (one unearned) in 15 2/3 innings, going 0-3 with an 8.62 ERA, though the last of those starts, which came in St. Louis, was quality. The last time Gallardo matched up against Carpenter, in St. Louis on August 11, Gallardo gave up five runs in as many innings and took the loss.
• Albert Pujols, who turned in a monster performance in Game 2 (4-for-5 with three doubles, a home run, and five RBIs), has hit .444/.515/.926 with four home runs in 33 plate appearances against Gallardo on his career. In a smaller sample, Rafael Furcal has put up similar numbers, going 5-for-12 with two homers and four walks against Gallardo.