I suppose you’re waiting for me to trash Willie Hernandez for the lousy pitching he did Sunday that helped the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 3-0, in 10 innings and spoil an otherwise clean-sweep weekend for Detroit, right?
Too bad. I am above that. Besides, he might have a bucket. Anyhow, I think Tigers fans should forget about Sunday’s defeat, which may have been a deliberate plot by Sparky Anderson to keep his boys hungry, and instead go right to the VERY BIG QUESTION, which obviously is this: What happened to the Boston Red Sox juggernaut?
You may recall four days and five games ago, the Sox were being compared to, say, the German army of 1940. Every team they played, they demolished.
“There’s no stopping them!” people cried.
Yeah. Well. Then again, maybe there is. What happened to Boston this past weekend is something you wouldn’t wish on any baseball team right now. What happened to them was Morris, Terrell, Alexander, King and Robinson. With a dash of Henneman and Heinkel.
See ya later.
“Good pitching is always going to beat good hitting,” Robinson said after the game Sunday — although, as he would quickly admit, a run here and there would be nice.
“Still, we feel we’re the best team in the American League. Nobody wants to believe that.”
He shrugged. “After we win the World Series, they’ll still be saying, ‘What a fluke.’ “
Then again, if the Tigers win the World Series, they’ll be too busy saying: “Who cares? Pass the cocoa butter. Urrrrrp.”
And don’t knock the idea. While it is still too early to draw conclusions, we did see an amazing display of Tigers pitching, defense and fundamental baseball in these five games. Robinson gave us the best show of all (nine shutout innings) and was the only one to get tagged with a loss.
Remember that Boston had a team batting average of .293 coming in here. That’s after you throw in all the pinch hitters and bench warmers and slumping batters, etc. Still .293? And what happened? Six runs in the first game, then one, two, two, three.
“What happened to the juggernaut?” pitcher Walt Terrell was asked.
“Didn’t look like juggernauts to me,” he said.
By the way, I should mention that Terrell said this, as usual, while sitting in front of his locker, holding a beer and showing as much movement as your basic mountain. But this time he was fairly typical of the team. Despite four wins over the hottest team in baseball, no one was getting too excited. No one was getting fooled.
“What did you learn from this series?” a reporter asked Darrell Evans.
“Nothing,” he said.
Or rather, nothing the Tigers didn’t know before. True, the Sox got a lot of headlines — the kind that, for whatever reason, the Tigers never seem to get. But that’s OK. The players here know good pitching when they see it — and when they see it from their teammates, they can’t help but smile.
“I don’t care if it’s 1988 or the year 2000,” said Alan Trammell, “pitching is going to beat hitting, and right now, we’ve got the pitching. That’s why we’re in this race.”
And that’s why Boston wasted no time dressing Sunday and heading for the bus.
“What did you learn from this series?” someone asked right fielder Dwight Evans.
“We learned that it’s not going to be easy, and that you can’t expect us to win 19 out of 20 games all the time. . . .
“And that we’re happy to get out of here.”
See ya later. Things can change quickly
Now. True. The Tigers are three games ahead in the AL East. Perhaps that makes you feel good. Perhaps that makes you feel giddy.
Perhaps that makes you feel like the crazed bunch of bleacher lunatics Sunday who identified themselves as THE JIM WALEWANDER FAN CLUB and sent me a note before the game saying that if I didn’t mention them in the newspaper they would call the LA Times and ask for Mike Downey back. These, by the way, are the same people who cheered a balloon as it flew across center field, screaming “GO! GO! GO!” And I thought the ’60s were dead.
Anyhow, such glee should be held in check for a while. True, the Red Sox may have stumbled against top-notch pitching; but the way the Tigers are hitting, consider their fate if, say, one pitcher went down with an injury and another began to struggle. Presto! You have a .500 ball club. One need look no further than Friday’s doubleheader, in which the Red Sox lost both Bob Stanley and Dennis Lamp to injury, to see what a difference a day can really make.
So what conclusions can we draw? Could Anderson have been right? For all the fuss, all the ink, all the brouhaha, were these five games against Boston just another five games?
For the final word, let us return to Terrell, the clubhouse Buddah, sitting in front of his locker. Terrell won the opener Thursday, then spent the next three days in careful observation.
“What did you learn from this series?”
He thought for a moment. He rubbed his chin.
“I don’t think there’s really 52,000 seats in Tiger Stadium,” he said.
The season goes on.