October 18, 2013
DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera hobbled through a stop sign, gently colliding with the catcher for an easy out at home.
Anibal Sanchez showed none of his no-hit stuff, Detroit’s first shaky outing from its rotation in the AL championship series.
And yet the Comerica Park crowd had a chance to roar Thursday night when Prince Fielder came to the plate in the fifth and seventh innings. But each time, Fielder failed to come through and cheers quickly turned to jeers for the slumping slugger.
Fielder extended his postseason drought without an RBI to a career-long 65 at-bats and that helped Boston hold on for a 4-3 win and a 3-2 series lead that put the Tigers on the brink of elimination.
The rotund first baseman doesn’t deserve all the blame, but he’s going to get a lot of it — especially if Detroit doesn’t win the last two games in the best-of-seven series.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch gave his OK to sign Fielder to a $214 million, nine-year deal last year to replace the then-injured Victor Martinez, expecting him to produce at the plate.
Fielder simply has not, often swinging early in counts for weak grounders that make fans in the Motor City groan.
He hasn’t driven in a run during the postseason in 15-plus games since the opener of the 2012 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The longest RBI drought of his career during the regular season was with the Milwaukee Brewers during a 44 at-bat skid in 2008, according to STATS.
That from a five-time All-Star who’s averaged 111 RBIs in his last seven seasons.
Fielder, though, wasn’t Detroit’s only problem in its third one-loss loss of the series, a defeat that put Boston within one win of the World Series.
Cabrera, who can barely run, in part because of a lingering groin injury, wrecked the Tigers’ first chance to score in Game 5.
He may have seen third base coach Tom Brookens wave him home initially as he was running toward third when Jhonny Peralta singled with two outs in the first. But Cabrera didn’t see, or he simply ignored, Brookens when he sent both arms up in the air to signal for him to stop and load the bases.
Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes made an accurate throw to catcher David Ross, who tagged out Cabrera without having to brace himself to take a huge hit from the 6-foot-4, 240-pound reigning AL MVP.
After Mike Napoli hit one of the most impressive homers over the center field wall in Comerica Park history in the second inning for the game’s first run, Cabrera couldn’t field Gomes’ grounder that went off the heel of his glove at third base. The error extended the inning, helping Boston take a 3-0 lead.
Down 4-0, Cabrera hit an RBI single in the fifth. Fielder was up next and grounded out to end the inning.
Cabrera had a chance in the seventh, but grounded into a double play with runners at the corners. Fielder then grounded out again to finish the inning.
Sanchez struggled to pitch anything like he did in the series opener when he didn’t give up a hit and struck out 12 over six innings, helping the Tigers win 1-0 for the only lead they’ve had in the series.
Now, it will be up to 21-game winner Max Scherzer to extend the series by winning Game 6 on Saturday afternoon in Boston to give Justin Verlander a shot to win a second decisive game this postseason.