Papa Grande takes defeat

Again? Really? In the 11th inning? Another Nelson Cruz home run to make it Texas 7, Detroit 3? Really? Didn’t we just see that two games ago? Come on, Mr. Destiny. Isn’t it bad enough Justin Verlander keeps getting rained on? Do we have to see every bad thing happen?

Speed kills. Power buries. This crushing loss that just jammed Detroit’s championship hopes into a terrible hole wasn’t just a rerun, it was a reminder – a reminder that you need multiple excellent elements to win a baseball crown. The Tigers have a lot – good starting pitching, a couple of big hitters. But Texas, so far, has more. Pitching, endless relief pitching, and – noticeably on Wednesday night at Comerica Park – base running and defense.

Led by catcher Mike Napoli, who had a great tag at the plate to save one run, a great throw to second to nail a would-be scoring threat, and a looped single to score a speeding Josh Hamilton with the go-ahead run, the Rangers just kept coming, coming, running and running, until the Tigers had no more miracles.

“One of the best baseball games I’ve ever been involved in,” manager Jim Leyland said after the defeat that gave the Rangers a 3-1 edge in this series. “It just didn’t come out the right way…. They just had a little more than we did.”

He’s right. Texas had guys who ran, guys who hit and guys who threw people out.

And one guy who seems to love the 11th-inning home-run ball. Cruz killed the Tigers in Game 2 with a walk-off grand slam.

“Tonight,” said Texas manager Ron Washington, “it was ‘thank you, Nelson Cruz.'”

Again.

Speed kills. Power buries.

Papa Grande takes defeat

Oh, yes, the Tigers kept it close. They kept it in sight. They jumped ahead 2-0, fell behind 3-2, then tied it up on a Brandon Inge solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. You thought when that happened – especially with Inge, the longest-fighting soldier on the team, the guy who went to the minors without complaint earlier in the season – you thought that kind of karma at home couldn’t be beat. Surely Detroit would ride that little man homer through Texas’ land of the giants.

Instead, the score remained tied into the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th. It dragged into the sixth hour from its original starting time, a twisting, nail-biting, rain-soaked affair.

Until finally, like two dogs gripped on the same bone, one snarled louder, snatched it and ran – and it was Texas, off of another Cruz missile, snagging the victory and control of the series.

Cruz’s shot came off Jose Valverde, the Tigers’ miracle closer all season. And the Valverde walking off in defeat – instead of his normal celebration dance – was the final symbol of an epic night with a less-than-epic-Detroit ending.

“You give it your best shot,” Leyland said when asked about whether Valverde was gassed after his fifth inning in three days. “He and (Joaquin) Benoit are both running on fumes and heart.”

And the Tigers are playing on it.

They’ll need every beat of it now.

The play of the game

By the final out at 10:32 p.m., this fourth game of the American League Championship Series was almost biblical. It took an eternity. Rains came, rains stopped. Day became night. Early went to late.

It was speed rewarded – the Rangers’ three-run sixth inning was mostly about steals or the threat of them – and it was defense rewarded, never more than in the eighth inning, when Miguel Cabrera reached third base on a Victor Martinez single and Delmon Young came to the plate.

Young smacked the ball high and far to Cruz in rightfield. Cabrera readied himself for the tag up. But Cruz has a great arm, and Cabrera has a great … bat. Speed is not his thing. The throw was so perfect, a one-hop strike into the Napoli’s glove, that the catcher had enough time to turn, shift his legs, hold out the mitt and scream “OH MY GOD YOU ARE HUGE!” before getting run over by Cabrera like an orange cone crushed by a moving van.

He held onto the ball.

Texas held onto the tie.

“Nellie gave me a good throw,” Napoli said.

Yeah. You could say that.

It’s up to Verlander

What a shame for the home crowd. What a break in the mood. Here was a game supposed to start at 4:19 p.m., didn’t start until after 6:30, didn’t end until four hours after that. If you can remember back this far, it was, for a while, a tremendous performance by 22-year-old Frederik Allen Porcello III – aka Rick – who two seasons ago was the youngest player in the majors with the richest high school contract in history.

That’s a lot to get out from under. But early Wednesday (meaning before your first dinner) you wanted to grab a crayon and draw a line above his head on the kitchen wall. This was the night, it seemed, Porcello grew up big. Coming off a less than grand performance against the Yankees in the ALDS (the game ended 10-1) and a few relief innings in Game 1 of this series, Porcello ascended to the mound on the prayers of millions of Tigers fans, and for the first five innings delivered all they could ask for.

Porcello kept the lawn mowed low, and plucked any fast sudden weeds with piercing efficiency. He had at least one strikeout per inning over the first four, and the only two baserunners he allowed were quickly nullified. He took a 2-0 lead and an anxious crowd into the sixth.

And then Texas Small Ball attacked. A single. A double down the line. A stolen base. A single. A misfired pickoff attempt. A single. This was a perfect example of the kind of baseball Texas can play and the Tigers can’t. Detroit simply doesn’t have the speed. And at some point in a seven-game series, speed may win one for you.

By the end of that sixth inning, the Tigers had lost their lead, and Porcello had lost his glow. He departed in the seventh to a standing ovation, deservedly so. But it wasn’t the finish he wanted, and as he approached the dugout he looked around at the cheering fans as if to say, “Right scene, wrong score.”

So it was.

So it would stay. Cruz made sure of that with his 11th-inning blast. Tigers fans desperate for any positive sign can note Cruz’s home run Wednesday was a three-run shot, whereas Game 2’s was a grand slam.

That’s about the best we can offer.

And now it’s down to one game or fall off the tightrope. The Tigers will send Verlander to the mound this afternoon, and if you need one guy to save one game in your season, well, he’s your man.

Problem is, even if he wins, they still need two more.

“We can count,” Leyland said. “We know what the situation is.”

It’s dire. It’s no fun. But it’s still baseball and it still follows the same rules.

Speed kills. Power buries.

And you can’t play if it’s raining.

And it’s supposed to rain again today.

Come on. Really?

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

Again? Really? In the 11th inning? Another Nelson Cruz home run to make it Texas 7, Detroit 3? Really? Didn’t we just see that two games ago? Come on, Mr. Destiny. Isn’t it bad enough Justin Verlander keeps getting rained on? Do we have to see every bad thing happen?

Speed kills. Power buries. This crushing loss that just jammed Detroit’s championship hopes into a terrible hole wasn’t just a rerun, it was a reminder – a reminder that you need multiple excellent elements to win a baseball crown. The Tigers have a lot – good starting pitching, a couple of big hitters. But Texas, so far, has more. Pitching, endless relief pitching, and – noticeably on Wednesday night at Comerica Park – base running and defense.

Led by catcher Mike Napoli, who had a great tag at the plate to save one run, a great throw to second to nail a would-be scoring threat, and a looped single to score a speeding Josh Hamilton with the go-ahead run, the Rangers just kept coming, coming, running and running, until the Tigers had no more miracles.

“One of the best baseball games I’ve ever been involved in,” manager Jim Leyland said after the defeat that gave the Rangers a 3-1 edge in this series. “It just didn’t come out the right way…. They just had a little more than we did.”

He’s right. Texas had guys who ran, guys who hit and guys who threw people out.

And one guy who seems to love the 11th-inning home-run ball. Cruz killed the Tigers in Game 2 with a walk-off grand slam.

“Tonight,” said Texas manager Ron Washington, “it was ‘thank you, Nelson Cruz.'”

Again.

Speed kills. Power buries.

Papa Grande takes defeat

Oh, yes, the Tigers kept it close. They kept it in sight. They jumped ahead 2-0, fell behind 3-2, then tied it up on a Brandon Inge solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. You thought when that happened – especially with Inge, the longest-fighting soldier on the team, the guy who went to the minors without complaint earlier in the season – you thought that kind of karma at home couldn’t be beat. Surely Detroit would ride that little man homer through Texas’ land of the giants.

Instead, the score remained tied into the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th. It dragged into the sixth hour from its original starting time, a twisting, nail-biting, rain-soaked affair.

Until finally, like two dogs gripped on the same bone, one snarled louder, snatched it and ran – and it was Texas, off of another Cruz missile, snagging the victory and control of the series.

Cruz’s shot came off Jose Valverde, the Tigers’ miracle closer all season. And the Valverde walking off in defeat – instead of his normal celebration dance – was the final symbol of an epic night with a less-than-epic-Detroit ending.

“You give it your best shot,” Leyland said when asked about whether Valverde was gassed after his fifth inning in three days. “He and (Joaquin) Benoit are both running on fumes and heart.”

And the Tigers are playing on it.

They’ll need every beat of it now.

The play of the game

By the final out at 10:32 p.m., this fourth game of the American League Championship Series was almost biblical. It took an eternity. Rains came, rains stopped. Day became night. Early went to late.

It was speed rewarded – the Rangers’ three-run sixth inning was mostly about steals or the threat of them – and it was defense rewarded, never more than in the eighth inning, when Miguel Cabrera reached third base on a Victor Martinez single and Delmon Young came to the plate.

Young smacked the ball high and far to Cruz in rightfield. Cabrera readied himself for the tag up. But Cruz has a great arm, and Cabrera has a great … bat. Speed is not his thing. The throw was so perfect, a one-hop strike into the Napoli’s glove, that the catcher had enough time to turn, shift his legs, hold out the mitt and scream “OH MY GOD YOU ARE HUGE!” before getting run over by Cabrera like an orange cone crushed by a moving van.

He held onto the ball.

Texas held onto the tie.

“Nellie gave me a good throw,” Napoli said.

Yeah. You could say that.

It’s up to Verlander

What a shame for the home crowd. What a break in the mood. Here was a game supposed to start at 4:19 p.m., didn’t start until after 6:30, didn’t end until four hours after that. If you can remember back this far, it was, for a while, a tremendous performance by 22-year-old Frederik Allen Porcello III – aka Rick – who two seasons ago was the youngest player in the majors with the richest high school contract in history.

That’s a lot to get out from under. But early Wednesday (meaning before your first dinner) you wanted to grab a crayon and draw a line above his head on the kitchen wall. This was the night, it seemed, Porcello grew up big. Coming off a less than grand performance against the Yankees in the ALDS (the game ended 10-1) and a few relief innings in Game 1 of this series, Porcello ascended to the mound on the prayers of millions of Tigers fans, and for the first five innings delivered all they could ask for.

Porcello kept the lawn mowed low, and plucked any fast sudden weeds with piercing efficiency. He had at least one strikeout per inning over the first four, and the only two baserunners he allowed were quickly nullified. He took a 2-0 lead and an anxious crowd into the sixth.

And then Texas Small Ball attacked. A single. A double down the line. A stolen base. A single. A misfired pickoff attempt. A single. This was a perfect example of the kind of baseball Texas can play and the Tigers can’t. Detroit simply doesn’t have the speed. And at some point in a seven-game series, speed may win one for you.

By the end of that sixth inning, the Tigers had lost their lead, and Porcello had lost his glow. He departed in the seventh to a standing ovation, deservedly so. But it wasn’t the finish he wanted, and as he approached the dugout he looked around at the cheering fans as if to say, “Right scene, wrong score.”

So it was.

So it would stay. Cruz made sure of that with his 11th-inning blast. Tigers fans desperate for any positive sign can note Cruz’s home run Wednesday was a three-run shot, whereas Game 2’s was a grand slam.

That’s about the best we can offer.

And now it’s down to one game or fall off the tightrope. The Tigers will send Verlander to the mound this afternoon, and if you need one guy to save one game in your season, well, he’s your man.

Problem is, even if he wins, they still need two more.

“We can count,” Leyland said. “We know what the situation is.”

It’s dire. It’s no fun. But it’s still baseball and it still follows the same rules.

Speed kills. Power buries.

And you can’t play if it’s raining.

And it’s supposed to rain again today.

Come on. Really?

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This