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.