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.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”