Stepping up: the Tigers’ big guns give them new life

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It’s an overused cliche — I know, because I’ve overused it — to say that a team has to have someone “step up” when things go poorly.  I guess what makes it most objectionable is the notion implied in the term itself that a player can simply choose to perform better. To “take a step” voluntarily and hit homes runs and stuff.  Baseball just doesn’t work like that. Guys are always trying. Sometimes the bat connects. Sometimes it doesn’t.

But even if one cannot simply choose to step up a team can do so in effect.  That’s what the Tigers did tonight, with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta all coming up big to give the Tigers a 5-2 win and cut the Rangers advantage in the series to 2-1.

A combined 4-for-23 in the first two games of the ALCS, Cabrera, Martinez and Peralta went 5-for-10 in Game 3, with each of them hitting a home run.  Also stepping up: a not-so-big gun, Austin Jackson, who has been horrifyingly awful in the postseason thus far — 3-for-25 with 14 strikeouts in the ALDS and ALCS entering Game 3 — but who went 3-for-5, scored a run and drove one in tonight.  Compare that to the Rangers Nos. 4-5-6-7 hitters who went a combined 0-for-15 and we can see whose bats made the connection from Dallas last night and whose didn’t.

But maybe more critical that the Tigers’ big bats waking up was the performance of starter Doug Fister, who gave Jim Leyland seven and a third innings of two-run ball.  While Leyland did use both Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde tonight, neither of them threw too many pitches and they and the rest of the taxed Tigers’ bullpen should be in decent shape to back up Rick Porcello as he takes the the hill tomorrow afternoon.  With Justin Verlander looming in Game 5, the Tigers can and should view tomorrow’s game as an “all hands on deck” affair.

But that’s tomorrow. Today the Tigers can take comfort in the notion that they’re back in the series. The bats are awake and, even if it was a mistake pitch to Cabrera from Koji Uehara, they proved that they can actually score a run or two off the Rangers’ bullpen.

Welcome to the series, Detroit. You arrived a bit late, but now that you’re here, enjoy yourself a while.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.